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With Vanek, Isles surging, questions about future intensify

Jan 22, 2014, 9:57 AM EDT

The New York Islanders took a risk when they traded away Matt Moulson, a 2014 first-round pick, and a 2015 second-round pick in exchange for Thomas Vanek.

For a while it looked like moving those picks was a mistake as the Islanders floundered near the bottom of the NHL. Lately though, they’ve gotten a ray of hope with a 10-3-0 run. Vanek has been a big part of that. He’s on a six-game point streak, including this gem against the Rangers last night:

If anything though, this complicates the Islanders’ position. Back when they seemed destined to miss the playoffs, the Islanders would have almost certainly traded Vanek by the deadline unless they were absolutely sure they could re-sign him.

They might still end up moving him, but taking the chance of letting him walk as an unrestricted free agent for the sake of having him for their stretch run is starting to look like a viable third option.

For his part, Vanek is very happy in New York, but isn’t ready to make a commitment yet.

“That’s still being discussed in a number of ways,” Vanek’s agent, Stephen Bartlett, told ESPN.com. “They have to make a decision where he fits into their team structure … and Thomas has to decide whether at this stage of his career if that’s the best spot for him.

“But his decision in the end won’t reflect at all in the fact that he’s found way more positives than negatives about his experience on the Island.”

Bartlett added that he would “completely understand” if the Islanders ultimately decided to trade Vanek.

The Islanders still have eight games left before the NHL suspends its schedule for the Olympics. How they do over that stretch could color Islanders GM Garth Snow’s view has he evaluates the team’s future over the break.

  1. bcisleman - Jan 22, 2014 at 10:10 AM

    Probably the smart play for Garth is to make Vanek a fair offer comparable to what he might get in free agency and trade him if he doesn’t sign. The return of Brian Strait on D has been the key ingredient in the surge.

    • jl9830 - Jan 22, 2014 at 10:54 AM

      Lol stop coming here everyday and talking about Brian Strait. Newsflash: HE’S AWFUL. The scoring surge is why we’re winning.

    • islesjb - Jan 22, 2014 at 11:10 AM

      Yeah I’m not really getting all of the Strait praise either. No aspect of the defense has been the key ingredient to their recent surge. Look back at all of their wins over the past 15 games or so- they’re winning games by scoring after giving up 3-4 goals every game.

      Like jl said, it’s the offense and more specifically the top line. It’s JT, Vanek and KO being at the top of the league in production for the past two months. The defense, while playing slightly better (which isn’t saying much given how they played in November) is still a problem and is still porous as hell.

      Are you and Strait cousins or something?

      • 7mantel - Jan 22, 2014 at 11:21 AM

        He has a bromace !

      • pfhockey - Jan 22, 2014 at 4:36 PM

        No, He IS Brian Strait.

  2. multiplemiggs - Jan 22, 2014 at 10:47 AM

    Strait has helped but remember they lost Visnovsky and they also have been without Hamonic the past two games. Guys like De Haan have really stepped up and are really helping the backcheck. After a few mistakes my Donovan, he really seems to have caught on as well. With the first line finally locked in, other guys have also got it together like Nielsen and Poulin has been great in place of Nabby. Can’t forget to give credit to Nilsson for stealing a shootout win too.

  3. nogoodtomedead - Jan 22, 2014 at 11:36 AM

    What about that goal qualifies it as a ‘gem’? The situation? Because tapping in a lose puck in front of the net is hardly the clip I would use to display the skill of NHL players.

    • islesjb - Jan 22, 2014 at 12:03 PM

      Watch it again- definitely wasn’t a tap in. He controlled the pass from Nielsen and made a quick move around Talbot for the score. Way different from a a tap in where there’s nothing but an open net and a puck a foot from the goal line

    • multiplemiggs - Jan 22, 2014 at 12:21 PM

      You must be the same guy on twitter claiming all the Isles goals are tap-ins. Where in the stats is the “tap-in” column? If thats how you wanna call the games then be my guest. Last night’s final: Isles-5 tap ins
      Rangers-0 tap ins lol

  4. djshnooks - Jan 22, 2014 at 12:01 PM

    Thomas Vanek…the streakiest player in the NHL…finally finding consistency?

    Moulson has more goals since ’09.

    Hopefully the Islanders defer the pick to 2015 and lose Vanek…then bottom-out.

  5. FlikeMorio - Jan 22, 2014 at 12:21 PM

    Come on. It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that Vanek will be playing for the Wild next year, and presumably for the remainder of his career. He resides in Stillwater, MN. He wants to be in Minnesota with his family.

  6. youngs79 - Jan 22, 2014 at 12:44 PM

    Thomas Vanek will be playing for the Minnesota Wild next year. Mark it down.

    • islesjb - Jan 22, 2014 at 12:57 PM

      There is a lot to suggest that that is where Vanek will end up. If that is the case and MN is a foregone conclusion in his mind I hope he has the decency to express it to Garth Snow so they can trade him before the deadline instead of losing him for nothing.

      • greatmiamisportsmind - Jan 22, 2014 at 2:04 PM

        Everyone is right, Vanek has expressed interest in signing with Minnesota. It makes total sense for both sides to not get a deal done. As mentioned above, he wants to go home, his wife is from Minnesota, and he’s exactly what the Wild need. They will also have the cap space to get him in since the cap is going up and Heatley’s $7.5 million is coming off the books.

        Garth Snow had to have known Vanek is a pending UFA, and if he decides to take a risk, and not move him, then t

      • greatmiamisportsmind - Jan 22, 2014 at 2:05 PM

        Everyone is right, Vanek has expressed interest in signing with Minnesota. It makes total sense for both sides to not get a deal done. As mentioned above, he wants to go home, his wife is from Minnesota, and he’s exactly what the Wild need. They will also have the cap space to get him in since the cap is going up and Heatley’s $7.5 million is coming off the books.

        Garth Snow had to have known Vanek is a pending UFA, and if he decides to take a risk, and not move him, then that’s on him.

      • hockey412 - Jan 22, 2014 at 2:49 PM

        It almost sounded to me by the way his agent said he’d completely understand if they trade him, that they’ve already expressed it. I don’t think agents normally say that type of thing.

  7. 7mantel - Jan 22, 2014 at 2:52 PM

    Snow is between a rock and hard place, the Islanders are paying good hockey and could possibly make the playoffs.Move him and break up the chemistry or keep him and get nothing for him.

  8. mattymarts17 - Jan 22, 2014 at 4:13 PM

    Everyone that thinks Vanek is a lock to sign in Minnesota is reading it from the same 1 article… Do any of you know him personally? If so I would love to meet him. Kyle Okposo is from Minnesota. I’m guessing it’s just a matter of time before he signs with the Wild too? If I’m not mistaken it was the Edmonton Oilers whom Vanek signed with when he was a RFA.

    • pfhockey - Jan 22, 2014 at 4:40 PM

      It’s an NBA thing coming into hockey, might as well make every canadian player play in Canada where their hometown is. These guys are professionals and I expect professionals to have integrity and respect for the business of the game. Lindros is an example of not respecting business.

  9. youngs79 - Jan 22, 2014 at 6:36 PM

    Hey mattymarts17, hate to burst your bubble bud, but I’ve personally seen it in the Star Tribune, by Michael Russo, who is a respected insider. I’ve also read about it in the St. Paul Pioneer Press by a different writer and I’ve also heard it from a Hockey TV guy who is a friend of their family. You don’t have to believe it, but just see what happens. The people I’ve heard or read it from, I trust. They are great sources who are usually right. So, you tell me he’s not coming to Minnesota. Who are your sources? Where is he going to sign then? We’ll see who’s right.

    • FlikeMorio - Jan 23, 2014 at 12:11 PM

      I believe the very well-respected, well-connected Lou Nanne has also backed this up.

  10. mattymarts17 - Jan 22, 2014 at 10:34 PM

    I didn’t say I had any sources nor did I say he isn’t going to Minnesota… Do you happen to live in the area? Because nobody in NY is writing definitive articles that I’ve seen. I just think people are assuming way too much. Nobody thought Viz would stay, nor Nabby… Both of whom after playing here signed extensions.

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