New York Islanders forward Thomas Vanek confirmed on Tuesday that he has turned down a lucrative contract extension from the team.
Newsday reported that Vanek had 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 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. "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 Buffalo 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.
Vanek is the captain of Austria's team at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.