Looking at Garth Snow’s most intriguing moves as Islanders GM

Chris Johnston joins Sportsnet Central to talk about Lou Lamoriello making changes with the Islanders and the better chance that gives the team of re-signing John Tavares.

Garth Snow’s tenure as general manager of the New York Islanders has officially come to an end.

So, what can we make of it? Looking back, it’s difficult to define the Snow era. But if you look at his track record, what started out as a shaky front-office stint turned into some decent dealings for the Islanders GM with plenty of questions still to be answered. Here’s a look at a few of the most notable moves — good, bad, and yet-to-be-determined — from Snow’s 12 years in charge in New York.

September 12th, 2006: Signed DiPietro to 15-year deal
For someone who carved out a career in the NHL crease, Snow struggled to lock down a true No. 1 netminder in New York during his time there. Rick DiPietro’s massive deal just makes the blue paint that much more of a sore spot for Islanders fans.

Yes, it’s probably unfair to list this deal on Snow’s resume, as it was then-owner Charles Wang who did the heavy lifting on this contract less than two months into Snow’s time as GM. Not to mention, no one could have predicted the laundry list of injuries that would derail DiPietro’s career. But rightly or wrongly, the monstrous deal — and the 2013 buyout — falls under Snow’s reign on Long Island.

February 27, 2007: Acquired Smyth from Oilers
Snow made a big splash at his first NHL Trade Deadline when he acquired “Captain Canada” Ryan Smyth from the Oilers in exchange for forwards Robert Nilsson and Ryan O’Marra and a first-round draft pick (Alex Plante), capitalizing on Edmonton’s contract standoff with their longtime forward. The Islanders sprinted for the post-season and would ultimately make it, only to be ousted in five games by the Buffalo Sabres. The bold move from Snow to get the club into the post-season in his first year at the helm ultimately ended in Smyth walking in free agency, as Snow was unable to sign him to a deal the following summer.

October 27, 2013 – March 5, 2014: Acquiring and trading Vanek
It started early in the 2013-14 season, when Snow paid a hefty price for Thomas Vanek: Matt Moulson, a conditional first-round pick and second-round pick went to Buffalo in exchange for the pending UFA forward.

The deal, though expensive, seemed to be working out as Vanek found great chemistry with the Islanders before John Tavares went down with a season-ending injury during the Olympics. When Vanek made it clear he wouldn’t be re-signing with the club, Snow traded him at the deadline for practically peanuts: Vanek headed to Montreal with just a second-round pick and prospect Sebastian Collberg coming back in return.

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October 4, 2014: Acquired Boychuk and Leddy
Snow added two key pieces to the Islanders’ blue line just a few days prior to puck drop on the 2014-15 season, and didn’t have to give up much in return as he was able to use his own cap flexibility to relieve teams whose budgets forced their hands. Nick Leddy joined New York from Chicago in return for defencemen T.J. Brennan and Ville Pokka and goalie Anders Nilsson while Johnny Boychuk came over from Boston for two second-rounders and a conditional third.

These rearguards, who continue to play big roles for the Islanders, helped Snow get his team to the post-season and avoided gifting the Sabres a top pick in 2015 from that dreadful Vanek deal.

June 26, 2015: Turned Reinhart into Barzal and Beauvillier
Avert your eyes, Edmonton. Snow earned a reputation for being a savvy draft-day dealer, and unfortunately for the Oilers, 2015 was his best showing. The Islanders went into the 2015 draft without any first-round selections, but changed that by sending defenceman Griffin Reinhart to the Oilers in exchange for a first- and second-round pick (16th and 33rd overall). The Islanders then used the 16th overall pick on Mathew Barzal, and packaged up No. 33 to select Anthony Beauvillier.

While Reinhart, originally selected by Snow with the fourth overall pick in 2012, is no longer with the Oilers, Barzal and Beauvillier have proven to be two huge pieces for the Islanders moving forward.

Barzal turned out to be a brilliant pick, registering 22 goals and 63 assists for 85 points as a rookie this past season while being named a Calder Trophy finalist. He and Beauvillier (21 goals and 36 points as a sophomore) make up two thirds of the club’s top-scoring line, thanks to another smart deal with the Oilers…

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June 22, 2017: Acquired Eberle for Strome
Snow was able to make a rare one-for-one trade with the Oilers that saw Jordan Eberle join the Islanders in exchange for Ryan Strome. While cap hits play a big part in this (Eberle counts for $6 million while Strome costs just $2.5 million) the deal doesn’t look so good even when you’re just looking at the stats. Eberle rebounded nicely in New York with a 25-goal, 59-point season, fitting in seamlessly alongside linemates Barzal and Beauvillier.

June 24, 2017: Sent Hamonic to Calgary
Just a few days after bringing in Eberle, Snow sent defenceman Travis Hamonic to the Calgary Flames in an effort to acquire more assets — something he often prioritized. While he sacrificed leadership on the blue line, he got a pretty decent haul: a first-round pick in 2018, a 2018 second-rounder, and either a second-round pick in 2019 or 2020 — all that, after showing patience with the defenceman following a trade request a few years prior. Now, it’s up to new GM Lou Lamoriello to decided what the team does with those picks.

February 2016, 2018: Staying quiet at the trade deadline
Many viewed the 2018 trade deadline as an opportunity for Snow to send a message to his captain that the team was willing to bring in backup to help Tavares get back into the post-season, but Snow was steadfast in his decision not to risk the team’s future. Ultimately, his inaction may have cost him his own job.

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