Newsday reported Monday that Vanek rejected a seven-year, $50 million extension from the club, a decision that means the Islanders now will look to trade Vanek prior to the March 5 NHL Trade Deadline rather than risk losing him to unrestricted free agency in July.
"I'm sure people will look at it and say, 'Wow, that's crazy by him,' or whatever," Vanek told Newsday on Tuesday. "As I've told Garth [Snow, general manager] before … it's like a breakup: It's not you, it's me. And it really is me wanting to explore this."
Vanek is in the final season of a seven-year, $50 million contract he signed with the Buffalo Sabres prior to the start of the 2007-08 season. He said the chance at age 30 to explore free agency is something he isn't ready to pass up.
"It's just me being a little selfish, I guess, and wanting to get to July 1 and seeing what's out there," he said. "It has nothing to do with this team and where we are in the standings. I think this team has a tremendous upside. Is it the right move? I don't know. But it's something me and my family want to explore one time and see how it goes."
The Islanders acquired Vanek from the Sabres on Oct. 27 in a trade for forward Matt Moulson, a 2014 first-round pick and a 2015 second-round pick. In 41 games with the Islanders, the 30-year-old has 15 goals and 38 points. He'll captain Austria's team at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
The Sabres opted to trade Vanek rather than lose him during the summer. The Islanders now are in the same situation, and Vanek said he understands he might be on the move again.
"Even if I would like to avoid it you can't, so you do think about it," Vanek said of a possible trade. "But I hope we put three wins together here [before the Olympic break], get closer to where we need to be, and after that there's not much I can say anyway. I can go anywhere. There's no reason for me to sit and speculate on what's going to happen because I don't know what's going to happen."