The Islanders shored up their depth on the first day of free agency Tuesday, but they were left as alternates for a handful of the top free agents who got good offers from the Isles but went elsewhere.
Thomas Vanek, Jarome Iginla, Dan Boyle and Brad Richards all had offers from the Islanders that were as good or better than the ones they took from other teams. But none chose to come to the Island despite Garth Snow's efforts.
The Islanders signed former Boston goaltender Chad Johnson, 28, to back up Jaroslav Halak, plus a slew of AHL veterans who might get a crack at roster spots, including New Jersey-born defenseman T.J. Brennan, who had 25 goals for AHL Toronto last season, and Cory Conacher, who has been an NHL regular with the Lightning, Senators and Sabres the past two seasons.
Johnson got a two-year deal for $2.6 million and Brennan and Conacher one-year deals for $600,000.
"We definitely addressed our depth," Snow said Tuesday night. "We got a quality backup goaltender and T.J. Brennan has a chance to help our power play and show he can be a regular in this league."
But the ones who got away were certainly bigger game.
Vanek, who was an Islander for 47 games after Snow paid a steep price to acquire him from the Sabres last season, said his choice was between the Wild and the Isles.
"The Isles offer was a little stronger [than Minnesota's] . . . I went back and forth," Vanek told Newsday after he accepted a three-year, $19.5-million contract from the Wild, considerably less than the seven-year, $50-million deal he turned down from the Isles in January, prompting Snow to trade Vanek to Montreal at the trade deadline for a small return.
The Isles' offer Tuesday was believed to be in the same $7.1-million average annual value range as January's offer, but Vanek, who played at the University of Minnesota and trains there in the offseason, chose to stay close to home.
"I was hoping the Islanders would get back in, and they did," Vanek said. "If it didn't work out with Minny, I would have been very happy going back to the Island."
Iginla signed with the Avalanche for three years and $16.5 million. According to two sources, the Islanders offered the same average annual value for four years. Dan Boyle said he took less money to sign a two-year, $9-million deal with the Rangers, and sources confirmed that the Islanders offered Boyle three years at closer to $16 million total but were rebuffed.
Richards, the former Ranger, accepted a one-year, $2-million deal with the Blackhawks after getting a similar offer from the Isles.
Snow declined to comment on any players who chose not to sign. "I think the core of our team is set," he said. "It's up to our players to improve from last season. We have a few guys who need to have better seasons for us to have success."
The Isles also signed three players with primarily AHL experience to one-year, two-way contracts: goaltender David Leggio and forwards Harry Zolnierczyk and Jack Skille.