The Islanders have acquired the negotiating rights to Vancouver defenseman Christian Ehrhoff in exchange for a fourth-round pick in 2012, the team confirmed to Newsday.
The news, as first reported by TSN's Bob McKenzie on Twitter, comes after Vancouver GM Mike Gillis intimated to reporters that negotiations on getting a deal done for Ehrhoff had hit an impasse. Several reports had Ehrhoff spurning a deal similar to fellow Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa, who recently signed a five-year deal worth $23 million.
The Islanders have until Friday, July 1 at noon to reach a deal with Ehrhoff before he hits the open market as an unrestricted free agent.
The likelihood of the Islanders locking up the 28-year-old defenseman will hinge on whether he’s open to playing on Long Island; in recent years, many free agents have not been willing. Money will not be the issue as it is believed the Islanders are prepared to go above the $4.6 million per year Bieksa received.
“I’m going to give it my best effort and try to get it done tomorrow,” general manager Garth Snow told Newsday when reached by phone Tuesday night. “I’ll know apparently early in the day what the chances are, but I’m not going to leave any stone unturned in trying to make this happen and improve our team.”
Reached by phone Tuesday night, Ehrhoff's agent, Rick Curran, declined to divulge specifics on conversations with the Islanders or past negotiations with the Canucks.
"What I can tell you is that I had a good conversation with Garth Snow," Curran said. "but I don't comment on current negotiations."
Curran said he planned to speak to his client Wednesday morning; Ehrhoff is currently back in his native Germany and Curran was not sure if he was aware of his rights being traded.
The 28-year-old Moers, Germany native tied his career high with 14 goals and set a career high with 36 assists and 50 points in 79 games for the Canucks this season. During Vancouver's playoff run, Ehrhoff has two goals and 10 assists in 23 games.
“He’s got good hockey sense, can move the puck well, and he has an uncanny knack to get out of tough situations in his own end,” Snow said.
An offensive defenseman with puck-moving and power-play ability, Ehrhoff will be looking for more than a slight raise from the $3.1 million he made last year. A thin free agent market could allow Ehrhoff to command upwards of $5 million per year on the free market.
“Obviously he’s a top-four defenseman and we’re going to do everything we can to get him signed.”