The New York Islanders traded forward Thomas Vanek to the Montreal Canadiens at the NHL trade deadline in exchange for a conditional 2nd round pick in 2014 and Swedish prospect Sebastian Collberg.
Vanek was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and turned down a lucrative offer to sign with the Islanders beyond this season last month. In 47 games with the Isles this season, Vanek scored 17 goals and had 44 points.
Collberg was listed as the fourth best prospect in the Canadiens’ organization by The Hockey News in the 2013 “Future Watch” issue. He is listed at 5’11” and 181 pounds and turned 20-years-old last month. Montreal selected Collberg in the second round of the 2012 draft with the 33rd overall pick. Scouts say he has a good shot and is dangerous in the shootout. He needs to bulk up to become a successful NHL player and is considered a perimeter player at this point in his career.
The Islanders had interest in Collberg before the 2012 draft. Scout Trent Klatt described the young Swede as a “smaller, skilled offensive player. He is a waterbug type of player that can score goals and set them up” according to a pre-draft profile posted in 2012 by TheScore.com (http://blogs.thescore.com/nhl/2012/06/21/draft-profile-no-14-sebastian-collberg/).
The Islanders took a risk when they acquired Vanek earlier this season in exchange for Matt Moulson, a first-round pick in 2014 and a second-round pick in 2015. The gamble did not pay off as Vanek was determined to pursue free agency and injuries and other factors derailed the Islanders’ season. The trade for Vanek also left the Islanders with significantly fewer chips to address their biggest needs in goal and on defense.
After a slow start, Vanek played well for the Islanders. The top line of John Tavares, Vanek and Kyle Okposo was one of the most effective in the league in the middle of this season once the trio got used to playing together.
Still, at 3o, Vanek was determined to explore free agency and the chance at a very large contract. While the Austrian winger has not ruled out re-signing with the Islanders this summer, the cost would be prohibitive to owner Charles Wang who has not shown he is willing to spend much above the cap floor on this hockey team. The Islanders failure to be playoff contenders this season also made it tougher for them to keep Vanek.
Isles’ general manager Garth Snow was hoping to get a first-round pick, a player and at least one prospect for Vanek but the trade market featured a glut of scoring forwards and the price went down as today’s deadline approached. It would have been a complete disaster to lose Vanek for nothing at the end of the season so this deal was the best Snow could get at the last minute according to most experts.
Fan reaction on Twitter was one of frustration. Many of the Isles’ faithful are questioning when the team will start adding star players who will be a part of the team’s long-term future to compliment John Tavares. Vanek would have qualified had he decided to stay with the club. Once again, the Islanders are adding prospects and draft picks at the trade deadline. Picks and prospects keep the team’s salary low and provide for a promising future but don’t necessarily produce wins right now.
The Islanders added two draft picks and a minor league forward yesterday when they traded defenseman Andrew MacDonald to the Philadelphia Flyers.
Expect the Islanders to feature younger players for the rest of this season as they play out the string and position themselves for what is likely another lottery pick. Players like Ryan Strome, Anders Lee and Calvin de Haan will see plenty of ice time with Vanek and MacDonald gone and Tavares out for the season with a knee injury suffered during the Olympics.
The deal that brought Vanek to Long Island was an attempt to improve the franchise that did not work out in the end. That only increases the pressure on the organization to make sure the next attempt does produce both short-term and long-term results. When your franchise hasn’t won a playoff series since 1993, it will take more than a new arena to restore the faith of a long-suffering fan base.