The New York Islanders have traded Thomas Vanek to the Montreal Canadiens for a 2014 second-round pick* and Swedish prospect (Frolunda) Sebastien Collberg, a smallish skilled forward selected by Montreal at 33 overall in the 2012 draft.
*Note: Arthur Staple of Newsday explains that the pick is conditional on Montreal making the playoffs, and if that is met then the Islanders send a 5th-round pick back.
The deal went down to the wire, as Islanders general manager Garth Snow and a few peers in similar situations appeared to be playing a game of musical poker with their contending rivals. Vanek was one of several scoring forwards on the market, and the number of teams reportedly connected to these wingers sure makes it seem like the sellers were trying to pump up the price while the buyers knew that the supply was too deep for their prices.
Anaheim's Tuesday trades to clear salary hinted at them making room to add a forward that never came -- whether a winger like Vanek (reportedly not their target all along) or a center like Ryan Kesler who ended up not moving.
Meanwhile, unrestricted free agent wingers Matt Moulson (to the Wild with Cody McCormick for undisclosed picks and Torrey Mitchell), Mike Cammalleri (not traded), Marian Gaborik (to the Kings for Matt Frattin, a 2nd-round pick and conditional 3rd), Ales Hemsky (dealt to the Senators for 3rd- and 5th-round picks) were all on the market, but only Gaborik was shipped before the dying minutes, while the Flames did not trade Cammalleri at all.
Four Months Later, Punt for a Prospect
This represents a failed gamble for Snow, four months in the making.
The Islanders originally acquired the pending unrestricted free agent Vanek in October for fellow UFA winger Moulson, a conditional 2014 first-round pick (which can be bumped to 2015 if it's top 10), and a 2015 second-round pick, with the hopes of courting Vanek to sign a long-term deal and help return the team to the playoffs.
Neither hope worked out, however: The Islanders plummeted to last place in the Metropolitan Division, and Vanek stuck to his initial desire to test the free agent market this summer.
As a result, the Islanders went into sale mode, hoping to charge a premium for what was viewed as the biggest chip on this year's trade market. The challenge, however, was that the Isles held Vanek in a year with so many of the other wingers on the market, and the buyers weren't falling for the sale.
Would Snow have fared any better holding on to Moulson?
Though the Moulson trade to the Wild included more than just Moulson -- an exchange of fourth-line grinders -- the net result is the Islanders essentially spent a first-round pick in October for four months of recruiting Vanek.
Vanek didn't take the sale, and though he certainly knows more about the Islanders and Long Island now than he would have had he hit next summer's market without spending time on the Island, the odds are still great that the Islanders' chance to keep Vanek long term have come and gone.