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Talks between Isles and Ehrhoff break down

Former Canucks defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, right, turned down

Former Canucks defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, right, turned down a contract offer from the Islanders and will become a free agent. Credit: Getty Images

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

Less than 24 hours after acquiring the rights to Christian Ehrhoff, talks between the Islanders and the 28-year-old defenseman broke down.

The Islanders shipped a fourth-round pick in 2012 to Vancouver in exchange for an exclusive negotiating window, but could not sign Ehrhoff by the 5 p.m. deadline Snow imposed Wednesday.

Snow would not divulge his ultimate offer to Ehrhoff, but it was well north –in dollar amount and length of contract—of what Vancouver gave Ehrhoff’s fellow defenseman Kevin Bieksa. Several reports had the Canucks offering Ehrhoff a multi-year pact similar to Bieksa’s five-year $23 million deal.

“We made a significant offer,” Snow said when reached by phone Wednesday. “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 a 5 p.m. deadline for Ehrhoff to decide. 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.

“I’ve received several calls, but we’ll see where that leads,” Snow said.

The Islanders may still trade Ehrhoff’s rights to another team before free agency opens Friday, but the likelihood of finding a trading partner appears slim given the waning window. Ehrhoff has now spurned multi-year offers from two teams and seems determined to test his value on the open market.

“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 defenseman Paul Martin and Dan Hamhuis but both signed elsewhere.

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

“It’s a soft [free agent] 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.”

It does not appear Snow is leaving the door open for Ehrhoff to change his mind; the Islanders plan on regrouping and seeking other options, including a potential 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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