Islanders: What If Thomas Vanek Accepted Garth Snow’s Offer?
By Matt O'Leary
In 2014, the New York Islanders offered Thomas Vanek a seven-year contract. He didn’t want to play in Brooklyn so he declined, but what if he didn’t.
In October of 2013, Garth Snow made a bold move trying to put the New York Islanders over the top. He traded Matt Moulson, a 2014 1st, and 2015 2nd in order to land Thomas Vanek from the Buffalo Sabres.
At that point, Vanek had two 40 goal seasons under his belt, and he was coming off a season in 2012-2013 where he had 41 points (20 goals, 21 assists) in the league shortened season.
Before John Tavares got hurt, Vanek, Tavares, and Kyle Okposo formed one of the more potent top lines in the league. They were firing on all cylinders, and in the 47 games, Vanek played for the Islanders he put up 17 goals and 44 points.
Unfortunately for the Islanders, Thomas Vanek wanted no part of playing in Brooklyn so he declined a seven-year $50 million contract from Garth Snow. The Isles, who were out of it by the trade deadline, were forced to trade Vanek for pennies on the dollar.
Instead, in the offseason, he would sign a three-year deal at $19.5 million ($6.5 million AAV) with the Minnesota Wild. Vanek would bounce between Detroit, Florida, Vancouver, Columbus, and back to Detroit again over the next five years.
His point totals year by year were 52, 41, 48, 52, and 36. While he never produced like the player we saw briefly with the Islanders, he was still a solid NHL top-six option for the remainder of his career.
But, what if he did accept that contract offer from Garth Snow? How would the Islanders’ future be different?
What if Vanek accepted the offer?
Let’s say, in this perfect world, Vanek accepts the Isles offer. They likely still miss out on the playoffs in 2014 but the next year is when things would get very interesting. That 2015 team was really solid.
Down the middle, they were solid with some combination of Tavares, Nielsen, Nelson/Strome/Grabovski, and Cizikas as the centers. They just lacked a little pop in the top-six, sound familiar?
In this scenario, if they sign Vanek, maybe they don’t need to spend the money and overpay for a Mikhail Grabovski. Let’s see the lines in 2014-2015 look something like this:
Vanek – Tavares – Okposo
Lee – Nelson – Strome
Kulemin – Nielsen – Bailey
Martin – Cizikas – Clutterbuck
Now that’s a good looking lineup! The big line up top from the year prior, the kid line as L2, and Nielsen and Bailey on L3 is some pretty solid depth. If everyone performs the way that they did except you swap out 19 points from Grabo to 50-60 from Vanek, this team finishes higher than third in the Metro.
Maybe the Islanders don’t catch the Rangers, who finished with 113 points, but they for sure are better than the 101 points that they finished with.
With home-ice advantage, the Islanders would’ve advanced past the Capitals. You can also make the case that they beat the Rangers in round two. If you remember correctly, the Isles were 3-2 against the Rangers that year and generally played them very tough.
In the Eastern Conference Final, they would’ve taken on Tampa Bay who were 1-2 against the Islanders in the regular season that year. Could they have beaten Tampa? Probably. Chicago won the Stanley Cup that year, their third in the decade.
In the regular season, the Islanders were 1-1 against Chicago but realistically they could’ve taken Chicago in a full seven-game series. I think people forget who good that team was and how different things are if they even had home ice advantage in the first round.
They were considered cup favorites early in the year, imagine if they never fell off? They really could’ve won the whole thing.
If Vanek turned into that long-term linemate, there’s no Andrew Ladd contract, no trade of their 2017 first-round pick in the expansion draft, probably no Lou Lamoriello or Barry Trotz, heck maybe John Tavares even extends.
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Yes, a lot of this is wishful thinking, but there’s no denying the future of the Islanders franchise is drastically different if Thomas Vanek signs the dotted line in 2014. We’ll never know, but there’s a chance we’d be talking about the Drive for Six right now.