Can You Defend the Vanek Trade?

Islanders GM Garth Snow has been taken to the cleaners by every writer, fan and pundit in every corner of the NHL for his failure to ‘cash in’ on Thomas Vanek at the trade deadline.

Arguably the most skilled forward available, Vanek garnered a conditional second round pick and Swedish prospect Sebastian Collberg – well below what Islanders fans were hoping to get in return for the talented Austrian.

But is there anyway at all you can defend what Snow got for Vanek?

Thomas Vanek

On the surface of it, no. Snow ‘deserves’ some of the flack for this one. It was a gamble that failed in a season Isles fans would sooner forget.

Even if you temper some of the loftier expectations Islanders fans had, the idea Vanek would go for a conditional second round pick and a 5’11” winger was almost laughable. But at some point, 28 other NHL General Managers found a reason, or reasons, not to move for the former Sabres star.

Was Snow’s asking price to high? Perhaps. The idea of a 1st round pick and a prospect might have been reasonable in years past – for example, Boston gave up Lane MacDermid, Cody Payne and a conditional second-round pick last season to acquire Jaromir Jagr. Jagr, like Vanek, was an impending UFA with an ‘unclear future’ (i.e. would Jagr retire). Jarome Iginla also brought in a solid haul for Calgary at last years deadline – Ben Hanowski, Kenny Agostino and a 2013 first-round draft pick from Pittsburgh.

Like Jagr, and Vanek, Iginla was an impending UFA whose future remained somewhat clouded. Would the Penguins be able to re-sign him? Would he retire?

It’s hard to imagine Snow did not look at those deals and feel 30-year old Vanek was at least worth a similar return – even with the former 40 goal scorer seemingly destined to join Minnesota in the summer. Even as a play-off rental, Vanek’s value seemed somewhere between ‘reasonable’ and ‘high’

But the 2014 market played out much, much differently.

Only the New York Rangers gave up a first round pick to acquire a scorer, as Steve Yzerman made out like a gang buster in trading Martin St Louis to Broadway. Among the other available goal scorers; Matt Moulson was worth an established roster player and two second rounders (Buffalo also sent Cody McCormick to the Wild) and Marian Gaborik, having perhaps his worse season in the NHL, was traded for Matt Frattin, a second-rounder and a conditional third-rounder. Mike Cammalleri did not move at all! The sheer volume of goal scorers available gave clubs keen to bolster their offence options, hitting Vanek’s value hard.

Another factor, which some have suggested put several General Managers off Vanek, was the wingers sub par showing in Sochi – combined with rumours of a night on the tiles ahead of Austria’s defeat to Slovenia. Whatever the reasons, the end result is Garth Snow looking kinda silly.

The Islanders gave up the popular Moulson, a first round pick at either this summers draft or next years (the Isles have the choice of when to hand over the pick) and a second round selection to acquire Vanek. Snow gambled, he acquired the better player but at great cost.

He may have recouped that second round pick, but the statistical possibility that pick becomes anyone of substance is low and there are many who are still very sore over the loss of Moulson AND a first round pick likely to be in the top 10 either this year or next…

And so we come to Collberg – potentially the only redeeming feature of this deal.

Snow said Montreal were the only team to offer any sort of deal on Wednesday, with the 20-year old Frölunda forward as the ‘centre piece’ of the Habs offer. Selected 33rd overall at the 2012 draft, Snow is banking on Collberg’s speed and offensive instincts kicking in sooner rather than later, giving the Islanders another strong prospect who could fill a top 6 role in the future.

Snow’s argument now is that any likely first round selection he would have received as part of a deal for Vanek would have been in the ’20s’ – Collberg was a player the Isles scouts had going somewhere between 20 and 40 at the 2012 draft. Basically, they think he is the equivalent of a first rounder, but already two years along in his development.

I can respect that argument in a lot of ways – Collberg may well be a pseudo first rounder, if Snow and his back room staff have their facts right. And one whose development has already been started by the Canadiens, who have let him play senior hockey in Sweden. He was also a big part of the Swedish U20 team at the World Juniors; plus it’s not like the Islanders are awash with potential top 6 wingers!

If (and it is a big IF) he pans out, history may judge this trade differently. But it’s hard to ignore the fact Vanek formed arguably the best line in the NHL with John Tavares and Kyle Okposo, and if Collberg fails to mature the Islanders will have given up an awful lot for nothing.

No pressure Sebastian.

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About Rob

Software engineer by day, Elite League Media man by night, Rob also blogs about cricket for One Stump Short, hockey for In Goal Magazine and video games for Outpost Delta as well as hosting the One Stump Short Podcast.

Posted on March 7, 2014, in Hockey, New York Islanders, NHL and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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