Islanders can't reach a deal for Ehrhoff

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General manager Garth Snow took a risk in hopes of improving the Islanders before the start of free agency, but it did not work out.

Less than 24 hours after acquiring the rights to Christian Ehrhoff, talks between the Islanders and the 28-year-old defenseman broke down and Snow shipped those rights to the Buffalo Sabres Wednesday for a fourth-round pick, just what he gave the Vancouver Canucks for the shot at Ehrhoff to begin with.

Snow had imposed a 5 p.m. deadline Wednesday to sign Ehrhoff. He would not divulge his final offer to him, but it was thought to be well north -- in dollar amount and length of contract -- of the five-year, $23-million pact Vancouver reportedly gave defenseman Kevin Bieksa.

"We made a significant offer," Snow said. "I don't want to get into specific numbers, but I felt like we made a good offer and a good run to get Christian to sign."

Snow first began discussions with Ehrhoff's agent, Rick Curran, Tuesday night but did not speak to Ehrhoff until Wednesday morning (Ehrhoff is back home in his native Germany). After several exchanges throughout the day, Snow set the 5 p.m. deadline. When it became clear that he would not be accepting the Islanders' offer, Snow emailed other teams around the league to gauge interest in the impending unrestricted free agent.

Though Ehrhoff spurned multiyear offers from two teams in the past week, Snow found Buffalo a team that was willing to take a risk in the way he had.

"Was it a gamble to try and make our team better for the short and long term? Yes, but it's a gamble I'd make again given the circumstances," Snow said.

Snow and the Islanders have a well-documented history of difficulty attracting top-shelf free agents in recent years. Last July, Snow offered more money to defensemen Paul Martin and Dan Hamhuis but both signed elsewhere.

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That, and the thin free- agent class this July, prompted Snow to take a risk on Ehrhoff.

"It's a soft class compared to years past," Snow said. "That's why I felt it was imperative to make a move and get his exclusive negotiating rights."

Snow said he plans on regrouping before tomorrow afternoon, when the free agency signing period begins, and seek other options to bolster the team's defense, including a trade.

"We took a step in the last 24 hours to get a quality player signed," Snow said. "It didn't work in this instance, but we'll keep trying to get top talent here."

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