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Garth Snow and the Thomas Vanek disaster

NHL: New York Islanders at Minnesota Wild
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Dec 29, 2013; Saint Paul, MN, USA; New York Islanders forward Thomas Vanek (26) against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. The Islanders defeated the Wild 5-4. (Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)

Here’s what the Buffalo Sabres were able to do at the expense of Garth Snow and the New York Islanders this season:

Turn Thomas Vanek – an impending free agent with a significant salary (Buffalo retained $2.1 million of it) and little chance of returning to Buffalo – into a first-round pick in either 2014 or 2015, three second-round picks and forward Torrey Mitchell, a cheap role player.

Four picks and a player for Vanek.

Imagine if Snow was able to get even a crumb off that cake during the trade deadline?

Snow and the Islanders take more gleeful whacks than a beer-filled piñata from critics. It’s not always warranted. But here, now, when it comes to Thomas Vanek, they are completely valid and encouraged: This is an epic failure in judgment of assets and marketplace by Snow. This was a terrible investment; like, "Wolf of Wall Street" bad.

The deal with the Montreal Canadiens for Vanek, essentially: Swedish prospect Sebastian Collberg, an undersized winger, for Vanek. If Montreal makes the playoffs, they trade a second-round pick to the Islanders and the Islanders, inexplicably, send a fifth-round pick to the Habs.

If Montreal misses the playoffs, then Thomas Vanek was just traded for Collberg, a lightning fast skater still looking to develop a consistent goal-scoring touch. But once more, with feeling: If Montreal missed the playoffs, Vanek was traded straight up for a 19-year-old former second-round pick.

So what happened with Snow and the Islanders? From Newsday:

"It wasn't a very active market," Snow told Newsday Wednesday afternoon, shortly after the 3 p.m. ET deadline passed. There were certainly lots of players moved, but the Islanders' GM meant the offers were not pouring in for rentals like Vanek.

"This was the best deal that was tabled," Snow said. "Getting a conditional second-round pick and Sebastian Collberg, a prospect who has top-six potential, was a pretty good return on a day like this."

Moulson, a rental without Vanek’s cache, was moved for an NHL player and two second rounders, with Buffalo shipping another body (Cody McCormick) out to Minnesota. Marian Gaborik, a rental in the middle of a horror show season, garnered Matt Frattin, a second-rounder and a conditional third-rounder.

Was it an active market? Of course. Was it an active market for Vanek? Of course not, because Snow set a price of a first-rounder and a player for Vanek, having little leverage to do so. Combine that with the fact that scoring wingers were available in abundance this trade deadline – Moulson, Gaborik, St. Louis, Cammalleri, Hemsky, to name a few – that Vanek wasn’t the crown jewel he might have been in a different year.

So he waited and waited and waited and oh thank god the phone is ringing yes please take my Vanek, Montreal!

Again, everything needs to be measured in context. Maybe Snow’s hands were tied yesterday, but the entire Vanek gambit was a failure. Consider:

* The Islanders gave up a first round pick for a player that they couldn’t throw enough money at to sign long-term, nor one they could flip as a tradable asset to recoup that pick because everyone knows where he’s going next summer. (And maybe, just maybe, the Olympic drinking thing gave him tarnish.)

* The Islanders gave up Matt Moulson, a bleeding-orange-and-blue type, for a player that just peaced-out for free agency.

* The Islanders used these assets for a top line winger rather than attempting to address other significant lineup holes, such as on the blue line or in goal.

Lighthouse Hockey nailed it: “The net result is the Islanders essentially spent a first-round pick in October for four months of recruiting Vanek.”

And in the end, a familiar refrain for Islanders fans: a star free-agent player refusing to play on Long Island despite getting money thrown at him, and Garth Snow trying to explain yet another wasted opportunity for this franchise.

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