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Snow boils it down to the basics -- win

by Dan Rosen

Islanders' GM, Garth Snow, is not looking to sell off his roster, however he is willing to improve his team at a reasonable price.
NAPLES, Fla. -- New York Islanders GM Garth Snow made a splash last year at the trade deadline by yanking Ryan Smyth out of Edmonton. It was a deal that both solidified the Islanders' offense and announced to the rest of the League that the ex-goalie means business.

A year later, with Smyth in Colorado on a six-year contract and not even a crumb from this blockbuster left on Long Island, Snow is faced with another doozey with Tuesday's trade deadline looming.

Is he a buyer? Is he a seller?

"I want to win," Snow told

As well he should, but Snow also is smart enough to see the obstacles he has laid out in front of him. The Islanders entered Wednesday's game in Washington 10th in the Eastern Conference with 63 points, only three shy of the eighth-place Flyers, with Buffalo sandwiched in between.

They're not out of the race by any means, but they're no lock, either.

So Snow adamantly refuses to throw in the towel and sell off the roster, which includes a slew of potential unrestricted free agents, including Mike Comrie, Ruslan Fedotenko, and Miro Satan, who are coveted by some current contenders. Trent Hunter is a potential restricted free agent, and his name has popped up, too.

Snow also scoffs at the notion that his team can't contend right now.

"Ask someone who thinks like that," Snow said. "They're probably not a general manager in the League."

Snow doesn't believe in a youth movement, either.

"Youth movement to me is an extreme statement," Snow said. "We have a good mix of veteran and young players in our lineup now. I look back and we haven't had that in years, and we got younger this year with a team that can win on a given night."

Nevertheless, Snow appears to be at the ultimate crossroad.

"We're trying to win," he added. "If we can help our team get better at a reasonable price, we'll do it."

Last season the "reasonable price" was two prospects, including Robert Nilsson, and their first-round pick in the 2007 draft. Considering the Islanders were contending for home-ice in the playoffs at the deadline last season, Snow deemed the deal worth making, and even sweeter because he didn't have to give up top prospects Blake Comeau and Kyle Okposo.

The Islanders went 9-2-2 in February, but March was rough as Chris Simon was suspended for his stick-swing on Ryan Hollweg and star goalie Rick DiPietro suffered two concussions and missed the last seven games of the regular season.

The Islanders wound up making the playoffs on the last possible day because they beat New Jersey in a shootout, capping a frantic four-game winning streak, including two via the shootout. They were, however, dispatched by Buffalo in five games.

Snow, though, said he would trade for Smyth all over again if he had the chance.

"To me, I was very fortunate a deal like that happened in my first year (as GM)," Snow said. "Whenever you can help your team it makes a good statement not only to your locker room, but the fans in the community."

The Islanders were seventh in the Eastern Conference just before the All-Star break, but a seven-game winless streak ensued and Snow was getting calls left and right from eager GMs trying to snatch the player they needed for their championship puzzle. Then the Islanders, who by Feb. 9 had dropped to 13th in the Eastern Conference, answered with a four-game winning streak entering Wednesday's game at Washington. Snow can't complain about that, but it certainly has made his job more difficult.

If the Islanders had continued to lose, Snow would be in a better position to sell and get prospects or draft picks. Now, with two games remaining before the deadline, he has to ask himself whether dispatching players from a team that could be playoff-bound is the right move?

"That's what makes these decisions tough," Snow said.

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