With comments in recent days ranging from Steve Bartlett, his agent, to ESPN's Pierre Lebrun and then some response from Islanders GM Garth Snow on Wednesday regarding Thomas Vanek's contract status, I thought I'd talk to Vanek about it Thursday morning.
Candid as always, Vanek said he understands that the Islanders need to know in the next week or two whether he's open to signing here long-term. He also understands that, if he can't give an answer or doesn't like a contract offer, the Islanders may trade him by the March 5 deadline.
And, in a bit of a surprise, Vanek said even if he's traded, he'd consider signing with the Islanders if he hits the open market on July 1.
"I know Garth gave up a lot to get me here, so if they feel they need to get something back (by the deadline), I understand," Vanek told Newsday. "He's been great, the team has been great. No one has put any pressure on me.
"I know that we're getting close [to the deadline] and that they want to know what I'm going to do. It's a big decision that obviously isn't just about me, it's a big decision for my family, where we're going to be."
There haven't been any substantive contract talks between the two sides, which just adds to the limbo of the situation. But even though Vanek hasn't indicated via his agent or directly to Snow whether he'd be willing to sign before July 1, saying that the Islanders "would definitely be on my list" when free agency begins could be seen as a sign he's not crossing them off to force a trade.
"Even if they traded me, sure," Vanek said. "I like it here, it's a good group of guys. This would be a place I'd consider if it gets to July 1."