What Now for Vanek and the Islanders?
If Thomas Vanek is going to be an Islander for the long term, it appears it won’t be something that is signed and sealed until the summer.
Newsday’s Arthur Staple has reported that sources have told him that Vanek has turned down a ‘substantial’ contract offer from the team.
So what does this mean now for Vanek and the Islanders?
In the short term, it seems very likely (to the point of almost certainty) Vanek will be traded before the March 5th deadline.
The former Buffalo Sabres forward, who will represent Austria at the impending Winter Olympics and is a UFA this summer, has 19 goals and 47 points this season. He also has two 40+ goal seasons to his name, and has never scored less than 25 goals in a full NHL season.
Simply put – the 30-year old knows where the net is.
And whilst he can be something of a streaky scorer, that ability to light the lamp will make him a highly attractive option for a number of clubs – as either a play-off rental, or something more.
Staple suggested that Vanek turned down a 7-year, $50m deal with the Islanders; which is in line with the last contract he signed whilst still in Buffalo. As Chris Botta, who was PR Executive with the Islanders for 20 years, reported; Vanek might not get that kind of deal elsewhere – something he is apparently aware of.
Right now, the ‘waters’ seem to suggest that the talented forward is leaning towards testing the free agency in July. He has been linked with Minnesota for some time now, having played College hockey there. But the Wild already have 17 players signed through next season, with $21.7m available to fill out their roster.
Despite having Nino Niederreiter and Darcy Kuemper heading for restricted free agency, Minnesota could, in theory, fit another high earner on to their roster.
But Vanek is not the only big name linked with the Wild, as Team USA goalie Ryan Miller is also, apparently, a potential target for the franchise.
With Niklas Backstrom at the back end of his career, Josh Harding’s health still questionable and Kuemper still learning his craft; goaltending is one area the burgeoning Wild will need to consider moving forward; potentially nixing any move for Vanek.
Whilst he has already said publicly he would consider re-signing with the Islanders, even if that is as a free agent in the summer, there are numerous teams who could fit Vanek on to their roster for next season – again, in theory. Some, like Buffalo, can be ruled out pretty easily while others would almost certainly need to be careful with their cap.
Whether or not Garth Snow sits down with Vanek’s representatives again in 6 months time, the Islanders GM now has to weigh up his options for moving the Austrian.
For the sake of comparison, Calgary got Ben Hanowski, Kenny Agostino and a 2013 first-round draft pick from Pittsburgh for Jarome Iginla at the deadline last year. And most pundits consider Vanek to be a ‘better player’ than Iginla was 12 months ago. Ergo, the Islanders can likely look for at least a 1st round pick, and some sort of tangible return in the form of warm bodies – whether that is via a blue chip prospect(s), a recognised NHLer(s) or a combination of things.
The Islanders greatest needs seem to be on defence, or between the pipes as Evgeni Nabokov moves towards retirement.
Depending on what happens with Andy MacDonald, a proven NHL D man would be welcome – though it is unlikely the Islanders would be able to acquire the stud D man they need; because those types of player simply are not available right now.
A goaltender is a possibility, though again acquiring a bona fide #1 seems unlikely – with the goalie market going a little quiet of late.
The kind of return may depend on who Snow finds as a trade partners; with two potentially suitors in the West.
Los Angeles simply cannot score right now, and so a sniper of Vanek’s reputation would not be ‘unwelcome’ at the Staples Centre, while St Louis has been on the cusp for at least two years now – and adding an elite goal scorer would certainly boost their chance of Cup success.
Both teams would need to send a ‘significant’ earner back the other way, with Justin Williams name referenced whenever the Kings are mentioned; while Chris Stewart has already been linked with one New York franchise in the past few days.
The slumping Canadiens could fit Vanek in without having to move anything – meaning the Habs could move ‘problem’ contracts (Danny Briere?) while Snow could use some leverage to pick up a top prospect, and perhaps a pick?
Whilst Snow took a calculated risk getting Vanek, giving up Matt Moulson, a conditional 2014 first-round pick and a 2015 second-round pick to get him, he can largely recoup that outlay thanks to the wingers recent good form – whilst also putting the Islanders in Vanek’s mind, thanks to an extended period playing with superstar John Tavares (because who wouldn’t want to play with the Isles Captain?)
For many, myself included, the price Snow paid was high – but when all is said and done, the Islanders may well come out of this in a much stronger place.