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UFA of the Day: Thomas Vanek

Jun 23, 2014, 2:45 PM EDT

Thomas Vanek Getty Images

Check PHT each weekday for the first four weeks of June for a new pending unrestricted free agent of the day. Today’s UFA of the Day is…

Thomas Vanek

The scoring leader of the projected 2014 unrestricted free agent class, Vanek’s contract season was nothing if not eventful. He started the campaign with the Buffalo Sabres, but they quickly traded to the New York Islanders for Matt Moulson and picks.

The Sabres were focusing on rebuilding while, at the time, the Islanders hoped that Vanek would be able to push them into contention after they made the 2013 playoffs. It didn’t work out like that, but it was hardly Vanek’s fault as he formed one of the league’s most effective top lines with Kyle Okposo and John Tavares. It became clear the Islanders weren’t going to make the playoffs though and they couldn’t re-sign him, so he was traded once again, this time to Montreal.

Vanek’s tenure with the Canadiens proved to be a lot less pleasant. He was underwhelming in the playoffs, averaging just 14:52 minutes per contest, and took some heat after the New York Rangers eliminated the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Final. Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur in particular questioned Vanek’s ability to perform when faced with adversity. His rough playoff run might have also lessened the Minnesota Wild’s interest in him.

He’s still arguably the top prize in this weak free agent market, but he’s no longer a slam dunk to get the massive contract that once appeared to be a foregone conclusion.

  1. areaman714 - Jun 23, 2014 at 2:48 PM

    Stardate February 22, 2012: I love this guy!

    • clarke16 - Jun 24, 2014 at 1:00 AM

      My WILD off-season checklist: (in no particular order)

      –Sign Vanek. 5 yr/$30M

      –Trade Koivu (thus opening up $6.5M/yr) Pominville to Captain.

      –Make serious run at legit #1 Centerman Paul Stastney with Koivu $$$

      –Trade Backstrom

      –Sign Bryz to two year deal @ ~$2m/per (platoon w/Kuemps next season)

      –Trade Brodziak

      –Re-tool special teams coaching responsibility. Remove Andrew Brunette (who replaced Sydor) and find someone with a *shoot first* mentality on the PP (critical)–and 26th in the league just can’t cut it on the PK. Serious attention needs to be focused here–even to the extent that Yeo himself takes this over.

      • bhinrichs9 - Jun 24, 2014 at 11:55 AM

        We need the help on Defense bud. We don’t need Vanek. Heatley 2.0 I don’t get how people don’t see this.

      • clarke16 - Jun 24, 2014 at 12:35 PM

        Keep studying and following the game, son… Some day the light bulb should go off and you’ll be better able to see the different shades of gray… 😉

      • illogic87 - Jun 24, 2014 at 4:02 PM

        koivu has a no trade clause, numnuts

      • clarke16 - Jun 25, 2014 at 1:52 AM

        …so do half the other players in the league, Clifford–and trades under NMC happen all the time. Keep up the good work, though… Trying to have a clue is better than not trying, eh? :)

      • illogic87 - Jun 25, 2014 at 12:52 PM

        actually, of all the contracts in the NHL, 18% have either a NTC or NMC…nice try though…youre an idiot

  2. rsmaggiemae - Jun 23, 2014 at 3:03 PM

    I know many in Minn dont want the Wild to get Vanek, but get him for 4 years at 7 mil a year. and see what happens
    Tell me, what big body player now that Heatly will be gone, can play in front of the net and get the high slot tip ins??????? He us not easily pushed around on the ice due to his size.
    He can score goals, which the Wild need, they are not pretty goals, but who cares, as long as you win the games Vanek admitted in his press conference in Montreal, that his play was terrible, but he said there was no chemistry at all with any line he was put on….
    Maybe if he were to return home, he would have a new incentive to play better as being this is where he lives in the offseason, could be a game changer for the Wild
    What have the Wild got to lose??? They paid Brodziak 3 mil a year for 6 goals for the entire season, and Vanek scored more goals in one month at Montreal than Brodziak did all year with the Wild… just give this guy a chance everyone is so down about him. and maybe he can teach the young kids a thing or to…… it helps to have experience on the team
    Everyone says not to sign him for a long period of time, but the Wild signed parise and suter for long term, and being they are pushing 30 this year. how good are they going to be in 7-8 years. so whats the difference????? Are they going to be as fast and good when they get older??
    I doubt it, if so, what will the Wild do then ? as I assume both of them have a no trade clause in thier contract.
    I realize that the Wild have many young good players coming up but thats going to be 3-4 years in the NHL for experience and if the Wild want a cup asap, they need someone who can score goals, more than parise.pomanville,koivu???,coyle,haula..who score goals, but its just not enough to win the cup …
    i am hoping they can also get Niskanene, and maybe Hiller as a backup goalie as we cant count on Harding due to his illness maybe the Wild will draft Demko a goalie this week.

    • fightingwild - Jun 23, 2014 at 3:14 PM

      That was quite a rant. How about you ponder this, Grandlund, Brodin, Coyle, Nino, Kuemper, Zucker, Haula, Folin, Spurgeon & Scandella are all coming off their entry level contracts this year or next. You cannot count on the cap to keep increasing (Even though it has done just that so far) & you need the cash to sign them or you will have to let someone walk. Who are you going to let walk? I would rather keep them than get Vanek. As for Parise & Suter, they are still younger than Vanek & provide leadership on top of scoring. Leadership in an intangible that is just as important if not more important than scoring. Just look at playoffs, the Wild just kept coming, they didn’t deflate or pack it in. That is Parise & Suter. When it was just Koivu the balloon popped & the Wild crashed & burned.

    • fightingwild - Jun 23, 2014 at 3:23 PM

      It is called Cap Geek read it, understand it, learn from it.

    • guitarhunterdude - Jun 23, 2014 at 4:35 PM

      I want Vanek as well, but I think that’s about all I agree with you on. If the Wild want a cup, they need to get reliable production from Granlund, Niederreiter, Coyle, Haula, Brodin, Dumba, and possibly Olofsson or Folin over the next couple years, while the vets they have are still good core players and the youngsters are cheap. Even then, they’ll probably still need another goalscorer, which is why I want Vanek. But my main point is that the Wild are definitely in win-now mode, and their window is the next two or three years.

      Other than that, holy hell, what a rant. I don’t want Niskanen for the price he’ll command, Hiller+Niskanen+Vanek is just ridiculous, drafting Demko (or any goalie) in the first (I’m assuming that’s what you want) would be stupid.

    • cmmorgan32 - Jun 23, 2014 at 10:10 PM

      rsmaggiemae: It’s called cap management for a reason. You can dream up any scenario you want. It doesn’t mean that Vanek will go to Minnesota (or that it’s even the right move).

      The reality of the situation is that Minnesota has a bunch of youngsters with expiring contracts that will likely obtain substantial raises when they re-sign. That, plus resolving the goalie situation would take priority over getting Vanek. Also, what is your obsession with the Gophers? Playing for Minnesota in college isn’t a good enough reason to offer someone a contract. To quote Herb Brooks (at least the movie version), “I’m not looking for the best players; I’m looking for the right ones.”

  3. lbeezyse - Jun 23, 2014 at 3:20 PM

    Please no to Vanek unless it’s a 3 year 5-6 per type of deal. A long term deal for him will make him the next Heater contract we all wanted to end. There are also reports questioning his work ethic as well as his locker room persona. With the youngsters in the locker room a cancer like Vanek can make things go sideways real quick.

    • guitarhunterdude - Jun 23, 2014 at 4:25 PM

      If Dany “Vehicular Homicide/Trade Request” Heatley didn’t destroy the Wild’s locker room, I doubt Vanek’s attitude will be an issue. Nino was supposed to be a whiny, me-first brat as well, and he’s been anything but in his time here. If the team’s doing well, even whiners have a tendency to shut up and play.

      I’m expecting something like a 4-year, 25-30 million dollar deal for Vanek. I think the main thing that his playoff struggles hurt will be the term of the contract, not the cap hit. Of course, he’ll be looking for term more than anything, so the Wild getting him for that is far from a slam dunk.

      • clarke16 - Jun 24, 2014 at 12:05 AM

        There’s a lot more to why Heater demanded out of Ottawa than people know…and it has nothing to do with what takes place on the ice.

    • clarke16 - Jun 23, 2014 at 11:49 PM

      “A cancer like Vanek”?

      You should really attempt at least to found your conclusions on those things called “facts”. I know it can be pesky for some–but it’s good for the cred.

  4. bullwinkle88 - Jun 23, 2014 at 3:20 PM

    You can have him. I don’t want to see him back here in Buffalo.

  5. credible316 - Jun 23, 2014 at 4:06 PM

    He will sign a cap friendly contract and come home.

  6. rsmaggiemae - Jun 23, 2014 at 4:56 PM

    In case you have not checked birthdays for Parise and Suter they were born in 84 and 85
    so thats pretty close to 30 years old…. almost same age as Vanek how old did you think they were?????
    Just tell me what is the difference in sigining Parise and Suter to 13 year contracts but its not so good for Vanek… the Wild had all those upcoming players when they signed both of them
    so just tell me…..whats the difference is it the names the prestige or what
    I just get why everyone is so down on this guy, I had watched him at the U along with all the Gophers for over 30 years and have been waiting for the cup since 67 when the N Stars started out and have had season tickets all these years and by the time the Wild win a cup I will probably be gone into the wild blue yonder thats why I want a cup asap I cant wait much
    I know in all probability we wont get Niskanen, but it would be nice for a right handed shot, and Demko was a very good goalie, as I get all the hockey from out east and the games in Canada so its not like I dont watch hockey or go to games. Our family has spent tons of money on hockey tickets for Wild.N Stars,Gophers men and women and also the high school.
    so dont get so excited about what I would like… even though you disagree with me..

  7. leafsnation87 - Jun 23, 2014 at 8:52 PM


  8. bleedrangerblue - Jun 23, 2014 at 8:53 PM

    Hey Mae! I can tell you right now. Woooo. Sigh. Vanek SUCKS!!! I said it!!

  9. bleedrangerblue - Jun 23, 2014 at 8:56 PM

    Wow the comments for Vanek. Did you watch the post season??? You people are nuts. Crazy. Vanek Sucks people

    • jl9830 - Jun 24, 2014 at 10:02 AM

      Have you watched hockey for the last ten years? Vanek is good, people.

  10. ironballsmcgee - Jun 23, 2014 at 10:37 PM

    Vanek is a niche player in my opinion – sits in front of the crease and scores off deflections or takes out the trash. It’s a valuable niche but it’s not going to work against every team.
    He definitely doesn’t suck though

    • clarke16 - Jun 23, 2014 at 11:55 PM

      Yup. Garbage goals count just the same… More of a Dino Ciccarelli type player but with a wicked wrister…

      This has *split the difference* written all over it… I’m looking at a 4-5 year deal between $24-30M–slightly more than Pommer’s contract…

      Almost a certainty he’s in a pretty Christmas Sweater next Dec 25.

  11. bcisleman - Jun 23, 2014 at 10:55 PM

    Wouldn’t be surprised to see him sign w/ the Isles after all. That’s where he had the most success. Rather see Isles put Anders Lee in that spot or draft dal colle to be top LW. We’ll see.

  12. d1122 - Jun 23, 2014 at 11:29 PM

    as an Islander fan I am going to say he is going to go back the Island because Snow is the only GM who is still willing to give him a big money and a long term contract, and I am also going to say by next year the contract is going to look like an albatross as Vanek is going to be even more unmotivated and miss more games with “injuries”

  13. purpleguy - Jun 24, 2014 at 12:16 PM

    For the right price, he’s worth it — the Wild need some scoring punch, whether the goals are garbage goals or not.

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