In light of the 2019-20 NHL Trade Deadline only being a few days away, I decided to look back on some of Garth Snow’s most memorable trades from when he was general manager of the New York Islanders. While Snow certainly wasn’t liked by many – if any – Islanders fans, he did make some trades that helped shape the beloved team that remains today. Since there were so many trades made by Snow, I will only be showing the five most memorable.
#5: Reinhart for a 2015 First and Second-Round Pick
Coming in as one of the more significant trades in Islanders history, and quite frankly one of the better trades of all-time, Snow sent defenseman Griffin Reinhart to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for a 2015 first-round pick (16th overall) and a 2015 second-round pick (33rd overall). Reinhart, who at the time was progressing very slowly for a fourth-overall pick (the progression never really sped up), was shipped to the Oilers for what turned into a superstar for the Islanders in center Mathew Barzal.
In addition to this, along with a third-round pick (77th overall) in the draft, Snow flipped the second-round pick he received from Edmonton to the Tampa Bay Lightning for another 2015 first-round pick (28th overall). The Islanders selected forward Anthony Beauvillier with the pick, capping off one of the best trades that Snow ever made.
#4: Niederreiter for Clutterbuck and a 2013 Third-Round Pick
Cal Clutterbuck has been a staple on the Islanders’ fourth line since the beginning of the 2013-14 season. Alongside a 2013 third-round pick (70th overall), he was acquired in a deal which sent forward Nino Niederreiter to the Minnesota Wild. Since the trade occurred on the date of the 2013 Draft, the 70th pick was used that day by the Islanders when they selected goaltender Eamon McAdam.
Niederreiter was a former first-round draft pick who never got the playing time that he deserved with the Islanders. However, once he was traded to the Wild, he started to get much more playing time. He even scored a series-winning overtime goal against the Colorado Avalanche in Game 7 of the quarterfinals in the 2014 Playoffs, his first season with the Wild.
The funny thing about this trade is that McAdam, the goalie the Islanders selected with their 70th overall pick that they received from the Wild, was eventually traded by current Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Matt Martin in 2018. And as all Islanders fans know, before signing with the Maple Leafs, Martin was previously a member of that dangerous fourth-line, consisting of him, Casey Cizikas, and Clutterbuck. In addition to being linemates for many seasons, they still are now after Martin was re-acquired in the deal, Martin and Clutterbuck are very good friends off the ice.
Although this trade didn’t involve any high-end talent, this was one of the more memorable trades that Snow made. And more importantly, this trade allowed for the creation of the Islanders’ well-known fourth line.
#3: Moulson and Two Picks for Vanek
On Oct. 27, 2013, the Islanders traded fan-favorite winger Matt Moulson, along with a conditional 2014 first-round pick (fifth overall) and a 2015 second-round pick (51st overall), to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for winger Thomas Vanek. The trade came as a shock to Islanders fans because over the three seasons leading up to 2013-14 Moulson had been a staple in their top-six forward core; he even scored 30 goals in each of those three seasons.
However, Vanek was a two time 40-goal scorer and was seen as a significant upgrade from Moulson. Snow really took the team by surprise when making this trade for a few reasons:
- It was only 11 games into the season
- Moulson was very good friends with John Tavares
- Moulson actually wanted to be an Islander, unlike many other players
The trade didn’t really result in much for the Islanders. They finished the season with a 34-37-11 record, and obviously failed to make the playoffs. The only good news to come out of the season was that they obtained the fifth-overall pick in the 2014 Draft. And due to the condition on the first-round pick that they traded to the Sabres, they were able to keep their 2014 first-round draft pick (fifth overall) and give them their 2015 first-round draft pick (became 21st overall). As a result of the circumstances, they kept their 2014 pick and used it to draft forward Michael Dal Colle.
Another funny thing to note on one of Snow’s trades is that the 2015 first-round draft pick (21st overall) that was traded to the Sabres was actually flipped by the Sabres to the Ottawa Senators. What’s even more funny about it is that the pick was traded for forward David Legwand and none other than goaltender Robin Lehner. Eventually, the pick was used by the Senators to draft forward Colin White. Although some of this information may be new to you, the Moulson trade is certainly memorable to Islanders fans.
#2: Ryan Strome for Jordan Eberle
While at the time Travis Hamonic was the Islanders’ most rumored player to be traded, it was forward Ryan Strome who was dealt first. Strome, another one of Tavares’ longtime linemates and friends, was traded to the Oilers in exchange for veteran forward Jordan Eberle. For Tavares, the only difference in this trade was that a former teammate of his was coming back to the Islanders. Eberle and Tavares were teammates and linemates during the 2009 World Junior Championship, which also played a role in Snow’s decision to pull the trigger on the deal.
This trade is very memorable because it not only came as a shock but also involved two very talented players. The only thing is that at the time, Strome wasn’t performing anywhere near where he was expected to when he was drafted fifth overall in the 2011 draft. Also, Eberle had just come off of a miserable playoff effort where he didn’t score once throughout 13 games.
Now, Strome is putting up career-high numbers with the New York Rangers. He has career highs in points (51) and assists (36) through only 59 games played this season. He also already has 15 goals this season, which is only four less than his career high.
As for Eberle, he has performed decently for the Islanders. Once Barry Trotz was hired as head coach, the entire team had to sacrifice some of their offensive abilities for their new defence-first system. Therefore, Eberle didn’t put up any crazy numbers. Through 49 games so far this season, he has 31 points, but only 10 goals. Obviously Eberle can be performing better for the Islanders, especially since he signed a five-year, $5.5 million contract extension last offseason.
Since the trade was fairly recent and changed the landscape of the Islanders forward core, the Strome for Eberle trade was certainly one of Snow’s most memorable trades.
#1: Nilsson, O’Marra and a First-Round Pick for Smyth
Coming in as the best player that Snow has ever traded for talent-wise, Ryan Smyth was acquired before the 2007 Trade Deadline. In exchange for Smyth, the Islanders sent Robert Nilsson, Ryan O’Marra, and a 2007 first-round pick (15th overall) to the Oilers. In all honesty, this is probably one of the better trades that Snow made as Islanders GM. Nilsson and O’Marra combined were not players capable of having anywhere near as big an impact that Smyth had on the team.
Also, the trade was necessary for another reason. Considering the Islanders had not been taken seriously around the league for a very long time, Snow knew that a big trade was needed. At the time, the team needed to upgrade significantly if they wanted to finally be taken seriously again. That is why they went out and traded for an established goalscorer in Smyth. Before the trade, Smyth already had 31 goals on the season for the Oilers.
Once traded to the Islanders, he helped get them into the playoffs by putting up 15 points in 18 games. At the end of the regular season, the Islanders had 92 points and a playoff spot waiting for them. However, they were soon eliminated in five games against the Sabres.
This result just goes to show how difficult Snow had it during his tenure with the Islanders. Even though he had a great goaltender that season in Rick DiPietro, an established goalscorer in Smyth, and a plethora of other producers like Jason Blake and Miroslav Satan, the team just couldn’t get the job done.
Throughout his tenure as Islanders GM, Snow had many opportunities to help his team improve. It’s interesting to see that three of the five trades listed here involved the Oilers. Obviously, Snow enjoyed dealing with them. Regardless of the varying opinions about Snow, it’s important to remember that without him, the team wouldn’t be where it is today.
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I have been an Islanders fan for longer than I can remember. Alongside writing about the Islanders, I have a passion for collecting sports cards and memorabilia.