Skip to content

Vanek: Decision not to sign with Isles involves more ‘than a contract’

Feb 4, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

New York Islanders' Thomas Vanek (26) skates back toward his bench after scoring during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the New York Rangers, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, in New York. The Islanders won the game 5-3. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) AP

Thomas Vanek says the decision to pass on New York’s “substantial” contract offer has more to do than just numbers on a page.

“I said from the beginning that I like it here,” Vanek told SNY TV. “But there goes more into it than a contract. It is what it is, but I’m sure we’ll continue to talk.”

The reports of Vanek rejecting the offer came after he said he’d be open to the idea of sticking with the Isles, be it through a new deal or returning after a potential deadline trade. The Austrian forward is set to become a free agent in July and, last week, said he’d think about coming back to New York even if he got moved.

From Newsday:

“I know Garth gave up a lot to get me here, so if they feel they need to get something back (by the deadline), I understand,” Vanek told Newsday. “He’s been great, the team has been great. No one has put any pressure on me.”

There haven’t been any substantive contract talks between the two sides, which just adds to the limbo of the situation. But even though Vanek hasn’t indicated via his agent or directly to Snow whether he’d be willing to sign before July 1, saying that the Islanders “would definitely be on my list” when free agency begins could be seen as a sign he’s not crossing them off to force a trade.

“Even if they traded me, sure,” Vanek said. “I like it here, it’s a good group of guys. This would be a place I’d consider if it gets to July 1.”

But it appears he’s no longer thinking that way.

Vanek’s in the final year of a seven-year, $50 million deal, so one can only imagine what New York’s “substantial” offer looked like. If Vanek did indeed turn it down, it gives a good gauge of his desire to hit the open market this summer, where he’ll be one of the most sought-after free agents available — in a year where the cap is expected to rise to $71 million.

Of course, this may not be about the money, as Chris Botta of the Sports Business Journal notes:

Vanek has long been rumored to be interested in joining Minnesota — he played his college hockey for the Golden Gophers and ex-Buffalo teammate Jason Pominville is playing very well for the Wild this season. Mike Russo of the Star-Tribune says his guess has “always been the Wild waits until free agency to pursue Vanek,” as Minnesota will finally have Dany Heatley‘s $7.5 million cap hit come off the books.

Isles head coach Jack Capuano seemed all but resigned to the fact Vanek would be headed to market.

“I hear about those things, I read about those things and for me as a coach, I just try to coach and teach the players that we have,” Capuano explained. “Obviously Garth [Snow, Isles GM] has talked to him and his agent, and if the decision is make that he wants to test free agency in July, that’s his decision.”

  1. hockey412 - Feb 4, 2014 at 11:12 AM

    They are clearly not in a strong playoff-run spot, and they just gave up what looks to be a very high first rounder for this guy. They won’t get a high first rounder back, that’s for sure. They are completely out of their minds if they don’t trade him for as much as they can possibly get. Start shopping now.

    • hockey412 - Feb 4, 2014 at 11:20 AM

      I just remembered that NYI had the ability to defer to 2015 if their 2014 is in the top 10…but I guess that doesn’t change my opinion of it at all.

      • hockeydon10 - Feb 4, 2014 at 11:30 AM

        Isn’t 2015 supposed to be a better/deeper draft also?

      • hockey412 - Feb 4, 2014 at 11:47 AM

        I’d doubt they want to lose a top 5 pick (just going by where they are right now) this year to have next year’s though. Who knows where they might end up next year. I could be wrong.

      • jpelle82 - Feb 4, 2014 at 12:24 PM

        i think they have to defer it this year, dont think they are climbing out of the hole this season like they did last year. i cant imagine with whats on the offseason/trade deadline horizon for them that they are going to be worse next year, i fully expect some big moves to improve this time around.

  2. lordfletcher - Feb 4, 2014 at 11:20 AM

    It’s going to be very hard getting quality pieces in trading Vanek now. Every GM knows he is going to test the free agent market this summer.

    Snow swung and missed….. Again.

    • lbeezyse - Feb 4, 2014 at 11:32 AM

      Maybe the Isles can resign Moulson? Seems like a Garth thing to do.

    • hockey412 - Feb 4, 2014 at 12:30 PM

      There might be a fairly strong rental market even with the low cap this year, including a later first round pick, though. If that’s the case NYI will have their own high first rounder and a later first rounder. Not sure who’s out there for that, though. Might not be a total waste – unless they keep him until the end of the year. He’s basically said “trade me, let me play for a contender, and I might consider you in July”.

  3. lowenni - Feb 4, 2014 at 11:22 AM

    More than a contract means family. And family means Minnesota….which means…the Wild are gonna be stacked next year.

    • lordfletcher - Feb 4, 2014 at 11:32 AM

      As a Wild fan I still think with potentially adding Vanek they are at BEST the third best team in the west. Defense needs to be addressed and the long term goalie situation… As well as a coach who can make all the pieces click, not sure if that is Yeo or not.

      Im thinking Coyle will end up being trade bait to round out the defense.

      No matter, the Wild are far from a dominating team and badly need to learn how to complete games and score more than 7 goals a week.

      • lordfletcher - Feb 4, 2014 at 11:35 AM

        The scary thing is that if the Wild land Vanek…. They better win one cup in the next ten years because those contracts will really, REALLY hurt in about 8 years or so.

        one cup makes it all worth it. Can die happy haha

      • clarke16 - Feb 4, 2014 at 12:23 PM

        It really isn’t that complicated. The Wild don’t score many goals because the Wild are in desperate need of another goal-scorer. They are still a couple of pieces away but have an optimistic future with the developing youth and a Head Coach who showed his stripes when the team was down and the rain clouds overhead.

        Bringing in Vanek makes every sense in the world this off-season. From there, pick up a solid right-handed blue-liner and continue to see Kuemper rise to the challenge or Harding recover sufficiently to do what he has proven capable of–and this team is set up for a three run run at the cup.

      • strictlythedanks - Feb 4, 2014 at 1:00 PM

        I dont think Coyle is going anywhere. Guys like zucker, fontaine, haula, bulmer, and phillips I believe are much more likely to be traded. Just like Kuemper, Coyle is essential to the future.

      • greatmiamisportsmind - Feb 4, 2014 at 8:29 PM


        in 8 years, those contracts will be tiny compared to where they are now. Don’t forget 8 years ago (first year of the cap), the cap was what, $31 million? Next year it could be $71 million, and that was with a lockout to get the cap lower than it was.

      • jhill35 - Feb 5, 2014 at 4:35 PM

        I agree with Coyle being the odd man out of the young group of forwards the Wild are stacked up on. I would like to see him and a pick for a goalie like Ward who is rumored to be possible trade bait. Only bad thing is two more years of Backstrom under contract. I think in net is their biggest need right now, their defense is young, and Scandella/Spurgeon/Brodin are only getting better. The need a guy like Ward more than a guy like Vanek. and who knows maybe Vanek would take a lot less to play in Minny and we could get both, thats wishful thinking, though.

    • jernster21 - Feb 4, 2014 at 11:35 AM

      They were supposed to be stacked with Parise and Suter too…seems to going pretty well for them so far.

      • jpelle82 - Feb 4, 2014 at 12:28 PM

        big difference in dumping heatley for vanek.

      • jernster21 - Feb 4, 2014 at 1:39 PM

        Heatley and his contract are the scape goat for a bad team, otherwise Yeo would be gone by now. Chuck Fletcher will do anything to deflect any criticism away from him, but the truth of the matter is that he hand cuffed his team with the Parise and Suter contracts AND THEN cried about having to sign them during the lock out, and NOW wants to go after Vanek AFTER he gets rid of Heatley’s ridiculous contract. Go ahead and add Vanek though – it’s not going to change anything with that team – you still have a gaping hole in net, a mostly inept offense and a mediocre defense at best. But hey, at least Minny can land those big free agents!

      • lordfletcher - Feb 4, 2014 at 5:06 PM


        you literally couldn’t sound any less knowledgeable about the NHL as a whole

      • jernster21 - Feb 4, 2014 at 5:26 PM

        Keep drinking that Wild koolaid, pal.

      • purpleguy - Feb 4, 2014 at 6:17 PM

        From the time Heatley got injured last spring and the Wild couldn’t amnesty his $7.5M contract, the expectation was an average season relying on the youngsters, and shoot for 2014-15 to sign a couple more pieces to contend. There was no expectation they’d be stacked — yet. Jernster must be a fan of another team, so the ignorance is understood.

      • tripmmm41290 - Feb 4, 2014 at 8:50 PM

        Jernster21 is on that haterade haha.

      • tripmmm41290 - Feb 4, 2014 at 8:54 PM

        @Jernster21 The Wild are one of the most sound defensive teams in the league, hence the diminished goal scoring. With that sentence alone, two of your opinionated “facts” are pinned as weak excuses for hockey knowledge.

      • clarke16 - Feb 5, 2014 at 12:39 AM

        How can you notappreciate the thoughts of fans like the jerkster… Pure comedy…and they don’t even charge me for this sh**

    • elvispocomo - Feb 4, 2014 at 11:41 AM

      While I don’t think it’s necessarily the case here, it could also be the organization committing to winning. It is a possibility though Vanek may have concerns over who else is brought back or areas that need improving before he decides to stay.

    • lowenni - Feb 4, 2014 at 11:48 AM

      I just find it hard to have as much respect and admiration for a team like Minnesota if they sign Vanek and start winning though. Parise, Suter, and Vanek…all big free agent signings. They build their organization through spending money, and while that’s the way it works in today’s NHL I have more respect for a team like Boston and Detroit who build through the draft, draft really really well, make smart trades, and continue to be powerhouses. For some reason it’s not the same for me if they just go out and get 3 big name players in free agency.

      • wallyswfl - Feb 4, 2014 at 11:56 AM

        All 3 have ties to the state or close to it, not our fault as a state our hockey programs are the tops in the nation….
        Signed the State Of Hockey!!!!!

      • lbeezyse - Feb 4, 2014 at 12:02 PM

        Low you’re entirely wrong. Koivu, Granny, Coyle(through trade), Nino(through trade), Zucker, Haula, Fontaine, Spurgeon, Scandella, Stoner, Prosser, Brodin, Backstrom, Harding, and Keumper are all homegrown players. The only players we “paid” for on roster are Parise, Mitchell, Suter, and Cooke. Pommer is a toss up because he was acquired through trade and re-signed. The Wild no doubt spend $ like every other team, but they as of late make it count where they spend it. You can’t say that about Boston and Detroit because they both make high profile signings and trades just like the Wild. Chara, Iginla, & Seidenburg are not homegrown. Weiss, Alfredsson, and Bertuzzi as well. Those teams draft very well, but you need to sign a couple studs to supplement the youth. There is no such thing as a 100% homegrown team. The Wild are in a good spot with the salary cap and having multiple youngster making the big step where signing a Parise, Suter, and Vanek makes sense.

      • lowenni - Feb 4, 2014 at 12:11 PM

        No no no, I didn’t mean the roster was just completely fake and not homegrown. They have drafted well with Koivu, Granlund and have brought in some solid younger players through trade like Nidoreitter and Coyle. I just meant their top two players (Parise and Suter) were not homegrown, and Vanek wouldn’t be either. That’s arguably 3/4 of your 4 best players who are brought in through free agency. But, granted, every team does it, like Hossa in Chicago. I just meant it was a bit more than some other teams, nothing major.

      • jpelle82 - Feb 4, 2014 at 12:32 PM

        i dont get why the minnesota fans care if they have hometown players from minnesota. i would find it insulting that guys just pick them in free agency to finish their careers there because thats where they are from, not necessarily because its a place to win and compete for a championship. i would rather root for guys from anywhere else if it meant winning a cup instead.

      • withseidelinn - Feb 4, 2014 at 3:24 PM

        You do whatever you need to do in order to win. Nuff said.

      • clarke16 - Feb 5, 2014 at 12:47 AM

        Pominville is the best all-round two-way player on this team. He wasn’t a free agent…and at only $5.5/per–a helluva lot better value than certainly Koivu and Parise…and probably Suter as well…

      • jhill35 - Feb 5, 2014 at 4:41 PM

        Have you seen the Wild’s prospect pool? I laugh when you say the don’t draft well, it has been ranked top 3 in the NHL the last few years..

    • rbbbaron - Feb 4, 2014 at 11:59 AM

      Or it can just mean that he wants to play for a winning team. If that’s the case, then Minnesota isn’t terribly distinguished…

      • wallyswfl - Feb 4, 2014 at 12:05 PM

        lol yes your so right but can you plz tell me who is??? They wanted to come home to play in front of family it really is not that hard to understand if you ever move out of your parents basement but hey

      • rbbbaron - Feb 4, 2014 at 4:19 PM

        I live a 12-hour flight away from my parents…how bout you?

    • guitarhunterdude - Feb 4, 2014 at 4:12 PM

      He could definitely be a nice complement to Koivu and Niederreiter on the top line. A top six of


      would be very stacked, and we could finally role a third scoring line (probably some varying combination of Zucker, Haula, Coyle and Fontaine). In addition, Bussieres and Bulmer may be ready to start taking some time from Brodziak, Cooke or Mitchell, so our shutdown line may be improved as well. With puck-possession improvement from our youngsters, our current above-average defensive corps, and a solid timeshare in net between Kuemper, Backstrom and (hopefully) Gustafsson, we may actually be second or third in the Central next year. Though I’m not sure who’s spot we’ll take. Colorado is on the rise, and if they can bring in some defensive depth they’ll be as scary as Chicago is now. The Blues should only be better, with some growth from Tarasenko and Schwartz. The only team I see potentially falling off is Chicago, with Hossa and Sharp starting to show their age, but even then they should still be awesome (especially if they can bring in Teravainen). So, the Wild should be pretty solid, at least, but there’s no question in my mind that the Central will be the best division in the NHL. Competing for a cup in the next three or so years is going to be next to impossible with three stacked teams above us.

  4. lbeezyse - Feb 4, 2014 at 11:30 AM

    As a Wild fan my grin is getting bigger by the day. The feeling around here is similar to the Parise news of him hitting the FA market. It’s not secret around here that Fletch plans to go all in on Vanek and knowing this why would Vanek sign with the Isles now? He is going to have his pick of teams to chose from and aside from Tavares, the Isles don’t offer him much. Not saying the Wild do, but their future is brighter than a team who is run by Garth.

  5. canadiansportsfan77 - Feb 4, 2014 at 11:38 AM

    They say substantial…but Wang isn’t really known for opening his wallet for the benefit of the team. They most likely low balled him.

    • richter35lundqvist30 - Feb 4, 2014 at 12:39 PM

      Wang tried to personally finance an enormous facility similar to Gillette in NE years ago but the miserable Kate Murray squashed the whole thing. The man would’ve injected revenue into Nassau County and provided a facility worthy of NHL superstars. They often try to sign people but the only way they can convince anyone to call that dump Nassau Coliseum home is by claiming them on waivers (Nabokov) or through trade. The fan base is there, the talent is there, the arena is not. As a Rangers fan I’m pretty worried about their move to Brooklyn when they can compliment their strong player development, especially the dmen on the way, with free agents. I’d say they should’t defer their pick as the 2015 class is so deep but theres no guarantee they’ll have a relatively high pick next year, they have to figure it out eventually right?

  6. deadrabbit79 - Feb 4, 2014 at 11:44 AM

    This is Ryan Smyth part 2

  7. gratescott - Feb 4, 2014 at 11:50 AM

    Buffalo fans were 100% correct when they told us what we traded for. A cherry picking, lazy, overrated and overpaid player. I’ve never seen this guy forecheck or backcheck while with the Isles. His effort each night is pathetic at best. I say good riddance. Be careful what you wish for Wild fans.

    • strictlythedanks - Feb 4, 2014 at 1:03 PM

      Pretty sure buffalo fans told you that you got a dynamic goal scorer who they will greatly miss. I certainly wasnt hearing them bash Vanek.

    • guitarhunterdude - Feb 4, 2014 at 5:00 PM

      We’ve got plenty of good to great two-way players. We need some true offensive talent, even if they are “lazy.” At worst, Vanek would be just like Andrew Brunette was for us in our first few years. And that’s even after he loses a step in the next three or four years. We need more net-front presence, more guys who can crash the net, more size. Vanek, though he’s not super-physical, would bring some of that. He’s not going to be a forty goal scorer any more, but I think we could reasonably expect 25-30 for the next three years or so. That’s way more than Heatley brings to the table.

      • clarke16 - Feb 5, 2014 at 1:00 AM

        One of the conditions Vanek will demand in coming to Minnesota is that he be reunited on a line with Pominville. I’m only partially kidding. Yes, Vanek is a very good player by himself. However, it’s players like Pominville who have made him great–and you better believe he well knows that better than anyone else.

    • purpleguy - Feb 4, 2014 at 6:22 PM

      If Vanek plays that way, it will be entertaining watching Mikko and Parise ride his arse. Mikko hates those guys — practically killed Havlat.

      • clarke16 - Feb 5, 2014 at 1:03 AM

        That’s fine ‘cept–Mikko may not be around much longer…

  8. travishenryskid - Feb 4, 2014 at 11:57 AM

    As a Sabres fan, if Darcy Regier’s final move was to flip UFA Vanek for the pick that turns into McDavid or Eichel (or in our wildest dreams, we get both because of this trade), then God bless you, good sir.

  9. djshnooks - Feb 4, 2014 at 1:07 PM

    I can’t believe nobody mentioned this…

    But, Ryan Miller is on the trade block as well…could there be a reunion in Minny?

    He was rumored to the Wild for Healey, Coyle and a 1st…that would help get Vanek out there, and get both re-signed.

    I think this happens, I really do.

    • lbeezyse - Feb 4, 2014 at 2:26 PM

      Unless the Wild can dump Backstrom there is 0% chance that the Wild deals for Miller. Coyle and a 1st will not be in a package either. Goaltending is not an issue for the Wild. D and scoring are the areas of need.

      • jhill35 - Feb 5, 2014 at 4:51 PM

        Great season by Harding, and Kuemper is still not ready to be a starter. Backstrom is showing age and is no longer a starter, and it kills me to say but Harding cannot be relied on as a number one with his condition. So I would say that goaltending is a big issue for the Wild, and Coyle looks less promising than Granlund/Nino so he would be most likely to be trade bait.

    • spiciercheez - Feb 4, 2014 at 2:43 PM

      There was a recent report that stated the rumored Miller for Heater-Coyle-1st trade was false. I can’t see the Wild giving up Coyle and a 1st for that…but crazier things have happened I suppose.

    • clarke16 - Feb 5, 2014 at 1:08 AM

      Zero chance of Miller to Minny. They’re looking for the guy to man the pipes for the next decade–not the next year or two…

  10. slickvb82 - Feb 4, 2014 at 1:25 PM

    @jpelle82 you’re a complete douchebag and don’t deserve a response, just a whole lot of dislikes

    • jpelle82 - Feb 4, 2014 at 2:53 PM

      for what? saying that they need to dump heatley’s contract for vanek instead?

      • slickvb82 - Feb 4, 2014 at 6:23 PM

        No, for saying its insulting for guys to want to pick MN and “end” their careers. Are you serious? You’re actually going to make a comment like that regarding 2 players that chose to play near their families, one who gets to play for his home state. I guess I appreciate it, you think its insulting.

        What about Dan Hamhuis (defensemen for the Canucks). He chose to go home while a free agent and play too, is he pathetic as well??

        Thats why you’re a douchebag.

      • jpelle82 - Feb 5, 2014 at 11:15 AM

        i’m not blaming the players. if i was set for life and had a choice to be close to my family or take a similar position somewhere else i would always choose my family. thats the point. if my goal was to be the ceo somewhere else then i would do it, just like if these players really wanted to win and be at the top of their profession they would make the sacrifice and go somewhere else too. thats why its insulting to the fans. the players come for the convenience and the nice fat paycheck…not because its the place to win and the fans are under this illusion that they’ve got something special there.

      • slickvb82 - Feb 5, 2014 at 8:02 PM

        Do you really think Suter and Parise just signed to be close to their families? You don’t think they believe MN has a chance to compete in coming years? I guarantee that was part of their decision, as they stated. We have one of the best young core of players in the league. Look at this year, we are competing, currently sitting 6th in the West with a group probably averaging close to 23 years old. These two players didn’t come to just end their career and collect a paycheck. They came to help an already good team get over the hump and compete for a championship.

        To me, I see right through comments like yours. Its the same crap people were saying back when they signed. I honestly believe its jealousy that two top free agents didn’t choose whatever team it is that you root for.

        With Vanek for example. Say he chooses to sign with the WIld at free agency. People won’t look at it as him making that decision based on a good team or it being the state of hockey and players might actually want to play here. It will be “insulting” to fans…..still don’t get that, but insulting in your words that he will sign just because what, he played here in college?? C’mon man

  11. footballchamp - Feb 4, 2014 at 2:25 PM

    I may be wrong, but this appears to be a watershed moment for the Isles. Look, they’ve been mediocre going on three decades. Their fans have suffered though some bad years for sure.

    In this new Tavares era, they need to be able to build and retain skilled players like Vanek. I get that it’s out of their hands after a certain point, but this really does not bode well for future Isles transactions. I can’t imagine players fleeing Crosby or Stamkos, and I hate to see skilled players ditching Tavares.

    This unfortunately says a lot about the organization overall. Not a good sign.

    • jpelle82 - Feb 4, 2014 at 3:06 PM

      the tavares line with vanek and okposo is awesome but its just bailing water out of a sinking ship. until they patch the holes (goaltending, defense) they arent going to get anywhere, tavares could put up 100 pts this year for nothing. skilled guys dont want to go there and help tavares win an mvp, they want to win games. it will be hard to lure or retain guys like vanek until they fix the other problems and create a culture of winning. crosby and stamkos have an organization and team behind them as well as the skill. if i were tavares i would be pissed by now.

  12. flash8910 - Feb 4, 2014 at 4:41 PM

    It’s like when someone says “I don’t mean to offend anybody, but…”. They usually end up offending someone.

    So when a professional athletes says “he is open to staying with a team…” They usually end up leaving the team.

  13. byah687 - Feb 4, 2014 at 5:07 PM

    Pominville and Vanek, two guys the Sabres should have never let go… but I completely understand why they wanted to leave. Expect Miller to be gone after this season is over as well.

  14. valoisvipers - Feb 5, 2014 at 2:55 PM

    Would fans of the Wild trade Koivu for LaTang?

Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. P. Kessel (1891)
  2. P. Kane (1706)
  3. P. Datsyuk (1386)
  4. M. Richards (1379)
  5. N. Backstrom (1236)