If the Islanders were headed toward the playoffs, maybe Thomas Vanek would not likely be heading out of town as Wednesday's trade deadline approaches.
Vanek and Andrew MacDonald, also presumed to be on the move, practiced with the team on Long Island for perhaps the final time Monday before boarding a flight to Winnipeg, where both could play in their last game as Islanders Tuesday night against the Jets.
MacDonald and the Islanders couldn't agree on contract terms. Vanek initially said he just wanted to explore free agency, and although he didn't rule out the Islanders, he did shed a bit more light on his decision not to accept a seven-year, $50-million offer.
"I'm now 30 years old. I still feel I got seven, eight good years left in me," he said, "but I want to set myself up and make sure I'm on a team where I can make the playoffs and have a chance.
"Can you predict which team is going to be good? No. But you can probably have a good idea of who's going in the right direction."
If the Islanders had been playoff contenders, would Vanek be more inclined to stay?
"I don't know," he said. "It's tough to predict this and that, but I'm sure if we would have, you know, been in the top echelon of it, maybe it makes a difference. But again, for me to stand here and just be like that would make a big difference, I don't know. But I can tell you that winning does make a big difference, so . . . ''
Vanek, an unrestricted free agent acquired from Buffalo in October for Matt Moulson and two draft picks, added to his trade value when he had two goals and an assist against the Panthers on Sunday. He has 44 points, third on the Islanders behind Kyle Okposo (61) and the injured John Tavares (66).
"I haven't been here for the longest amount of time," Vanek said. "I've been here for a good amount of time where you get to know your teammates, so any time you get traded, it's not a good feeling. The guys have been great. I think they understand the business side of it just like everyone else."
MacDonald, also with free agency looming, rejected a four-year, $16-million deal. He lamented the Islanders' fall to the bottom of the Metropolitan Division after making the playoffs last season, saying, "It's pretty disappointing. Everyone was so excited about last season, the direction the team was going. It is really frustrating as players, I'm sure the fan base and organization as well.
"It's just too bad the way it ended up. I'm sure everyone in here wishes we did more to prevent it from happening, but it is where we are right now and there's not a whole lot we can do about it right now."
Notes & quotes: Matt Martin (lower body) is ready to return, coach Jack Capuano said. Travis Hamonic skated with the team after his one-game ban for starting a fight with the Devils' Ryan Carter on Saturday. Hamonic's fisticuffs were in retaliation for a questionable hit Carter put on MacDonald, a close friend of Hamonic's.