When Newsday broke that Thomas Vanek had apparently rejected some "substantial" contract offer from the New York Islanders, you knew it would be an interesting day for fans -- the latest in decades of them, the first of many more to come.
Vanek, true to his form so far, did not shy from questions about the report Monday. On camera and as aired on NHL Network, Vanek responded to the inevitable queries:
"That's how negotiations work, you know, they go back and forth. Again, I said from the beginning I like it here but, ah, again there's more into it than a contract. So it is what it is, but I'm sure we'll continue to ta-- enjoy myself here. Hopefully I can stay here, we can make a run and push for a playoff spot."
That's a bit of "say the right things" speak in there -- it sounded like he was pulling "continue to talk" off the Things To Say shelf before realizing that seems moot now -- but also a sincere hint at what many have suggested all along: Vanek wants more than money, he wants the opportunity to pick his destination and situation in the wide-open setting of unrestricted free agency.
Many have long said that will be Minnesota -- would that interest be reciprocated? Can he know until he finds out? -- but regardless, we'll find out in July.
For what it's worth, TSN's Darren Dreger said on the same NHL Network segment that Islanders GM Garth Snow "will continue to plug away" at a contract solution, but that sounds increasingly for naught.
The Post added more that seems to point to this being a "situation, not money" decision:
At the end of the day, whether he does or doesn’t sign won’t be because there was no way to come to a contractual agreement," one source said. "It will just be a decision that is not money-oriented. It will be a decision based on the other things that go into a player’s decision."
"It’s not a battle over dollars," a league source said. "It’s mostly [Vanek’s] desire to make that decision now, or make that decision later."
While the cynic would say, "It's always about money," the practical might say, "The guy has made roughly $50 million off hockey and is guaranteed to make $50 million more. Maybe it's about where to make it rather than making 10 percent more."
Of course, the Islanders always knew this outcome was a possibility back when they made their trade for what amounted to a four-month free agency courting of the Austrian. Now it appears the only remaining question is how they handle salvaging something for the asset.