SYOSSET, N.Y. -- As practice wound down Monday morning, New York Islanders coach Jack Capuano had a long talk near center ice with defenseman Andrew MacDonald. After working together for seven years, there's a good chance MacDonald will be moved prior to the NHL Trade Deadline on Wednesday at 3 p.m. ET.
"We were just reflecting on a lot of things," MacDonald said. "We don't really know what's going to happen here, so [he was] just asking how my girlfriend and I were holding up and how we were doing. Jack's a great guy and very genuine. He was just concerned about how I was doing."
MacDonald, 27, can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. With no new contract in place and the Islanders all but eliminated from playoff contention, New York general manager Garth Snow will likely trade MacDonald and left wing Thomas Vanek before the deadline.
MacDonald has 24 points (four goals, 20 assists) in 63 games this season and is averaging 25:25 of ice time per game, tops on the club.
"This is the only organization that I've been with," said MacDonald, who was drafted in the sixth round (No. 160) by the Islanders in 2006 and worked his way up from the ECHL. "I've actually had Jack every year that I've played pro, so it's been a long relationship between the two of us, as well as all the guys in the room that I've gotten to know over these years and have become really good friends with. It is emotional, it's tough. But it is a business and you do have to remember you're doing your job. Wherever you go or if you stay, you do your best to help that team win."
Capuano admitted emotions would run high if MacDonald is traded, considering the amount of time the two have spent together.
"It'd be tough. He's a guy I grew up with [in the organization] for a long time," Capuano said. "It happens. It's pretty emotional when you're with a guy for that long. But at the same time, this is a business and guys move on, not just with the Islanders, but every organization. But I'm real proud of the way he's come along."
Vanek, 30, is also set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. He was acquired from the Buffalo Sabres on Oct. 28 in exchange for left wing Matt Moulson, a first-round pick either this year or next year and a second-round pick in 2015. The Islanders protected their selection this year if it landed in the top 10, so it's unlikely Buffalo will get that pick this June since New York is fifth from the bottom of the NHL standings.
"It [stinks]," said Vanek, who has 44 points (17 goals, 27 assists) in 47 games with the Islanders. "I know I haven't been here for the longest amount of time, but I've been here for a good amount of time where you get to know your teammates and the training staff and stuff. Any time you get traded, I think it's not a good feeling.
"The biggest thing is the guys have been great. They understand the business side of it. It's a little strange from that standpoint, a little different, but overall I think we all know what's ahead of us."
The Islanders begin a four-game road trip Tuesday against the Winnipeg Jets. Vanek and MacDonald joined the team on the flight and are expected to play if no deals are made before then.
"We're moving forward just as we would," Capuano said. "It's just [another] day on the calendar and when it's over, I'll be happy and I won't have to answer these questions anymore."
"I think you pack a few extra clothes for sure," Vanek said. "That's just reality, I guess."
After qualifying for the playoffs last season for the first time in six years, the Islanders (23-32-8) are having a difficult time accepting this reality. New York gave the Pittsburgh Penguins a good scare in the opening round of the playoffs and was hoping to carry that momentum into this season.
But the Islanders have blown a two-goal lead 12 times (they're 2-6-4 in those games) and are 9-16-8 at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. It's certainly not a recipe for success.
"It's pretty disappointing," MacDonald said. "I think everyone was so excited about last season and the direction the team was going. It is really frustrating as players and I'm sure as an organization as well. It's too bad the way things 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."
"I think this League is so close," Vanek said. "You look at some of the losses that we have had, you're so close from being good. I'm sure there are a few things that Garth would like to tweak, I'm guessing. I can't sit here and say the last three months have been real bad. I think we had put together a real good stretch. You look back at seven, eight, nine losses, that's a lot of losses. Usually if you're a playoff team, you look back at two, three or if you're just outside, you look back at two, or three wins you could have had.
"But in my three months here, I look back at probably 10 games that we could have had. That's 20 points and you're right in the middle of the pack."
So now Vanek will likely play for a third team this season, although this time it figures to be for one headed toward the playoffs. Whatever happens, he's determined to see the offers that come his way this summer.
"It just came to a point where I felt, 'OK, I want to test the free agent market, most likely,'" Vanek said. "But that doesn't mean the Islanders wouldn't be one of my teams at that time."
Would he have already signed with the Islanders had things gone differently this season?
"I don't know," Vanek said. "It's tough to predict this and that, but I'm sure if we would have [been] in the top echelon, that maybe makes a difference. For me to stand here and [say] that would make a big difference, I don't know. I can tell you winning does make a big difference.
"I have a wife, I have three boys, [so] obviously off the ice everything needs to be well, which it was great here. But I'm 30 years old and I still feel I have seven, eight good years left in me. I want to set myself up and just 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 for who's going in the right direction."