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Thomas Vanek trade falls short of expectations

Thomas Vanek reacts after a stop in play

Thomas Vanek reacts after a stop in play against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center. (Dec. 7, 2013) Credit: Getty

EDMONTON -- The deadline has passed and it's safe to say just about every observer, from the professional types on TSN and Sportsnet up here to just about every fan on Twitter, feels the Islanders failed. A few thoughts and notes on the last several weeks of profound disappointment in Islander country:

-- The Thomas Vanek trade quite obviously fell short of expectations. Once Vanek rejected the seven-year, $50 million offer from the Islanders in January, Garth Snow was obligated to move his top-line wing. Perhaps he should have done it right away to get a bigger return; of course, the Islanders were actually playing well then, even though it quickly fizzled once the Isles returned from that reasonably successful six-game road trip.

Perhaps now, too, we can look back and see that Vanek, once he turned down the Isles and once that word had gotten out, wasn’t exactly gunning the engine full throttle. He can't be held solely responsible for the Isles' 1-6-1 slide into the Olympic break, but that top line was hardly as effective as it had been.

Like most everyone else, I don't know much about Sebastian Collberg, the 20-year-old right wing the Islanders got for Vanek. I’ve heard him compared to a PA Parenteau-type; good offensive instincts, good skating, not the most physically imposing player. He's signed through next year, so once his season ends with Frolunda in the SHL, the Islanders will try to bring him over to North America for training camp.

-- As I’d written a couple Sundays ago, the real focus has been the offseason. Rental players were not fetching huge returns before this deadline; I definitely thought the Isles could get a first-rounder for Vanek, but the only first dealt today was by the Rangers for Martin St. Louis, who was not a rental.

So now, armed with eight picks in the first four rounds this coming June -- the first-rounder that won’t be going to Buffalo, two seconds (provided the Canadiens make the playoffs), two thirds and three fourths -- Snow is tasked with making a splash on the draft floor in Philadelphia in June.

That will almost certainly be through a trade or two; the free-agent goaltender market may not be quite as fantastic as it seemed before the last couple days, so Snow may use those picks to find a goaltender who can carry the load and has some term left on his deal -- Cam Ward, perhaps? James Reimer? Pure speculation on my part.

-- The trade route being the Isles' best bet, plus all the ugliness of the past couple months is a stark reminder of the main thing that free agents and players with no-trade clauses look for: Winners. The Islanders haven’t won enough, period. You can argue that players like Vanek should have done more to make the Isles winners, but players are looking for winning situations, in addition to all the money and the security.

So the ridicule from all corners, the calls for Snow's head, for Jack Capuano's, for Charles Wang to sell -- it all stems from the same place. This team hasn't won for a long, long time, with a few seasons' worth of exceptions.

Between that and Snow's reluctance to be in the media spotlight, most people fill in the gaps. And here we are.

The Flames didn't move Mike Cammalleri, who is likely to leave in free agency. Brian Burke did the rounds of the Canadian deadline shows, though, so Calgary gets a pass from many of the critics.

But the folks who run the Isles are big boys and they know the drill. This is not a big-spending team -- they're run in a different way than the Rangers or the Devils or the Flyers. They're not a beloved Canadian team like the ones up here that will fill their buildings regardless of talent or record.

So they will take their lumps, all earned by not winning.

-- Now it's on to the final 18 games of the season. The Islanders called up Mike Halmo and Matt Donovan; both will get the same long looks that Ryan Strome, Anders Lee and Anders Nilsson will get. This is what's left to evaluate through the end of the season.

New York Sports