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Quite a Snow job

Islanders GM Garth Snow has had a long and unsuccessful run, but recently has turned the team around with some shrewd moves.

ASSOCIATED PRESS KimmoTimonen shouldn't return to the Flyers this season.
ASSOCIATED PRESS KimmoTimonen shouldn't return to the Flyers this season.Read more

THE ISLANDERS' Garth Snow deserves to be in the running for the NHL's general manager of the year award.

Count that among the things I never thought I'd type.

Snow's quixotic, 9-year run at the helm of New York's forgotten sports franchise has had plenty of laughs. Remember his first order of business? Goaltender Rick DiPietro's 15-year, $67.5 million contract? Or what about that proposed trade at the 2012 draft, when Snow reportedly offered all seven of his picks (Nos. 4, 34, 65, 103, 125, 155, 185) to Columbus to move up two spots to No. 2 overall?

And, honestly, who could forget how he bungled last year's trade deadline?

In October 2013, Snow sent not only a first- and second-round pick to Buffalo, but also leading scorer Matt Moulson, in exchange for fellow free-agent-to-be Thomas Vanek, who had roughly the same number of goals. The kicker was not moving Vanek for anything at the deadline after it became clear the Islanders were out of the playoff race.

As if keeping his job for the nine seasons wasn't enough of a miracle, Snow now presides over the top team in the Metropolitan Division. Seriously.

The Islanders actually owe a good bit of that to Snow's shrewdness in two trades back on Oct. 4, just 4 days before this season started.

Snow, 45, preyed on two teams - the Bruins and Blackhawks - with salary-cap constraints and formed the Islanders into a legitimate playoff foe in a matter of hours.

Many already thought the Islanders would be improved this season. For one, John Tavares would be healthy again. Snow brought Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolay Kulemin, two forwards familiar with each other from Toronto. And finally, goaltending would no longer be an excuse with Jaroslav Halak in net.

Yet, it was snatching Nick Leddy from the Blackhawks and Johnny Boychuk from the Bruins that changed everything in a span of a few hours.

The Bruins had no choice but to move a defenseman to clear salary-cap space by opening night. Rookie Trevor van Riemsdyk, emerging and inexpensive, made Leddy expendable in Chicago.

It was the type of forward-thinking coup in a salary-capped era that is rarely pulled off, especially with how quickly word travels in this social-media age. The hockey world is still an extremely small and tight-knit one. Word of one deal might have changed Snow's leverage in the other.

Now, Snow looks like a genius. He took his lumps and quickly signed young stars Tavares, Kyle Okposo and Travis Hamonic to long-term deals at relatively favorable salary-cap numbers. He retained unheralded coach Jack Capuano, who is already the second-longest tenured coach in team history and deserves Jack Adams Award chatter.

There were plenty of bumps in the road. But Snow's patience, long-term vision and perseverance - through all the tabloid fodder and jokes - is no laughing matter. Fall down eight seasons, stand up in the ninth. The onetime division doormat Islanders aren't going anywhere any time soon, something the Flyers will soon recognize. Their intrigue will only grow league-wide with their move from Long Island to Brooklyn next season.

Snow's plan and vision should be catching the eye of his goaltending counterpart on the Flyers' 1997 Stanley Cup final team.

Similar opportunities to prey on opponents will be coming up soon for Ron Hextall, starting when the Winnipeg Jets will have nine healthy defensemen available in a week or 2. Hextall could definitely do worse than trying to pry 23-year-old blue-liner Ben Chiarot, for instance, from a Thrashers/Jets franchise that has yet to win a Stanley Cup playoff game.

Take it easy, Kimmo

Ron Hextall announced Saturday that results from Kimmo Timonen's full-body CT scan showed the blood clots found in his lung in August have been reabsorbed into the body, but the clot in his right calf has not dissipated.

Doctors will meet with Timonen and Flyers brass this week to assess the risk associated with Timonen's possible return to the ice. An announcement, one way or the other, is expected on Wednesday.

"If he really wants to play and everything we hear from the docs checks out, we'll allow him to play," Hextall said. "There's still a chance he could play. It's going to come down to Kimmo. If there's a risk, we're not going to expose him to it."

Timonen has been taking the blood thinner Xarelto since August. He has also kept in regular physical shape, playing tennis daily and working out in the Flyers' weight room. He has not skated.

Timonen, 39, said he'd rather retire with his skates on than his shoes. Who can blame him? Every player wants to go out on his own terms. He also said a large part of signing his 1-year deal with the Flyers last June was to make one last run at a Stanley Cup this season. We know now that is not going to happen.

Timonen has nothing to prove here. The "Little Finn" endured more pain and played through more injuries in his 1,092-game NHL career than most could imagine. He may be the "missing piece," as Jake Voracek called him this weekend, but it's too late for this season. Don't risk the future for a 30-game shot at glory, Kimmo. This town's opinion of you was cemented long ago as one of the best defensemen in franchise history.