News broke Monday morning that Thomas Vanek had rejected a contract offer from the New York Islanders that would keep him with the team beyond this season. When you consider that the Islanders were reportedly going to give him a deal in the ballpark of his current seven-year /$50 million pact, it's easier to see why he didn't bite down on the hook. Vanek would be able to demand much more if (or when) he hits the open market as an unrestricted free agent.
Now, Isles General Manager Garth Snow is fielding offers from other NHL clubs to see if he can trade Vanek elsewhere. According to reports, Snow will keep trying to sign the Austrian-born winger while he listens to bids from his GM counterparts. It makes sense that he would adopt this approach and he'll probably up the ante to try to retain Vanek before he reluctantly decides to send him off of Long Island. He has meshed well on the top line with John Tavares and Kyle Okposo, where he has amassed 15 goals and 38 points in 41 games, since he was acquired from Buffalo. The Islanders gave up Matt Moulson, a first-round pick in 2014 and a second-round pick in 2015, so a similar package would probably be required to pry him away.
If he does end up being traded then there will be no shortage of potential suitors even though it may not be easy for contending teams to squeeze Vanek into their salary cap. Several organizations are barely under the cap right now, which will make wheeling and dealing a mathematical headache as the trade deadline approaches next month. The Los Angeles Kings, Vancouver Canucks and Pittsburgh Penguins could be the likeliest destinations, while teams like Columbus and St. Louis may get into the hunt as well. The Kings and Canucks could use a jolt of offense in their top-six groups, while Pittsburgh is always looking to tinker with their collection of firepower. The loss of Pascal Dupuis could make that inclination stronger around the March 5 trade deadline. Columbus has a chip to play in Marian Gaborik and the Jackets could use a splash to help ensure a trip to the postseason. The Blues seem to be involved in every trade rumor nowadays because the talented club is fed up with falling short in the playoffs and there is a serious need to make some noise this spring. Vanek appears to be leaning toward testing the waters in July, so he could be a high-priced rental.
The Minnesota Wild project to be the frontrunner for Vanek's services in the summer if he decides to test free agency, so the team's brass will probably be reluctant to give up assets to obtain him. Minnesota has been talked about as a likely landing spot for Vanek since last summer when we knew his contract had one year remaining. He played college hockey for University of Minnesota and he spends his off-seasons in the area. Former Buffalo captain and current Wild winger Jason Pominville is also very close friends with Vanek. He hasn't ruled out returning to the Islanders as a free agent if it comes to that, but a potential trade and the allure of Minnesota may complicate that.
Let the Vanek sweepstakes begin! ......Again.
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WE HAVE A TRADE TO ANNOUNCE
We did get a trade on Monday, but it wasn't close to being as captivating or sexy as a potential blockbuster involving Vanek or Ryan Callahan or Ryan Miller. The Canadiens and Canucks completed a transaction which sent Dale Weise to Montreal in exchange for Raphael Diaz. Weise might be able to get himself a spot on Vancouver's fourth line, while Diaz could be worth monitoring if he receives power-play work with the Canucks. He also has 100 blocked shots in 46 games this season, so that should earn him points with soon-to-be coach John Tortorella.
Patrick Kane lost his grandfather, Donald, hours before Monday's game against Los Angeles. Despite playing with a heavy heart, he led the Blackhawks to a 5-3 win by generating two goals and an assist. Our condolences go out to Patrick and his family for their loss.
Johan Franzen won't play for Sweden in the Sochi Olympics because of a concussion and his spot will be taken by Detroit teammate Gustav Nyquist. The 24-year-old winger has been red hot of late, while producing eight goals and five assists in his last nine games. His chemistry with Red Wings and Swedish captain Henrik Zetterberg probably had a lot to do with his selection as well.
The Czech Republic will need a substitution for Blues forward Vladimir Sobotka, who is out indefinitely with a knee injury. Some may think that Jiri Hudler or Radim Vrbata would be slam dunks to take his roster spot, but the Czechs are reportedly leaning toward adding a more defensively-conscious player to fill Sobotka's role. That would mean that Zbynek Irgl, Jan Kovar, Tomas Rolinek or even Martin Erat could get the nod over snubbed scorers Hudler and Vrbata.
Pavel Datsyuk and Steve Stamkos are hoping to avoid being replaced on their respective Olympic rosters. Datsyuk may not play this week because of a troublesome lower-body injury. He has been sidelined since playing in the Winter Class on New Year's Day, but he still expects to captain Russia in Sochi. Stamkos hasn't played since Nov. 11 because of a broken leg, but he's targeting Saturday's game against the Red Wings for his return to action.
The Super Bowl wasn't very competitive on Sunday, as the Seattle Seahawks coasted to a 43-8 victory. Sorry, Denver fans. The NHL featured a battle between the two worst teams in the league on Monday night when Buffalo hosted Edmonton. It was a much closer contest as the Oilers earned a 3-2 victory to widen their lead in the overall standings to six points. It's probably time for Edmonton to give another team a shot at the top draft choice, but in a season where everything has gone wrong for the Sabres it wouldn't be surprising if they didn't win the lottery either. My apologies to their fanbase as well. Aaron Ekblad and Sam Reinhart are still projected to be the top prospects available in the 2014 class to attempt to ease the pain.
Detroit's Jonas Gustavsson was forced to leave Monday's game early because he experienced "dizziness." Kris Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins is still battling an illness, which is undergoing further testing. Calgary netminder Karri Ramo won't play until after the Olympics because of an MCL injury. Click here for more injury news and notes.