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Under Pressure: Thomas Vanek

Aug 13, 2014, 10:59 AM EDT

Thomas Vanek AP

A simple search of his last name in the PHT search box is all you need to realize that the 2013-14 season was a busy one for Thomas Vanek.

To recap:

Vanek started the season in Buffalo, before he was traded to the Islanders, before he rejected a big offer to sign long-term with the Isles, before he went to Sochi to compete for Austria at the Olympics, before he was part of a group of Austrians that was forced to apologize for partying too much, before he was traded to Montreal, before he was roundly criticized for his play during the playoffs, before he signed with Minnesota, before he was connected to a federal gambling investigation.

Are we missing anything? Probably.

Some of the above — his performance in the playoffs, especially — is perhaps why the 30-year-old winger didn’t get the kind of mega-deal that many predicted he would as an unrestricted free agent. In fact, it was reported in October that the Sabres were “willing to make him the highest-paid player in the NHL.” While that may have been a stretch, certainly nobody was thinking he’d end up with a modest (relatively speaking) three-year, $19.5 million deal.

Granted, it’s possible Vanek left money on the table to play in Minnesota, where most predicted all along the former Golden Gopher, with the wife from the Land of 10,000 Lakes, would end up.

“Thomas may be one of the only players to take a pay cut and a term cut to come anywhere,” said general manager Chuck Fletcher. “Everybody else is doubling and tripling their salary.”

Still, the Wild will be counting big-time on Vanek to give their 24th-ranked offense a lift.

“We feel we can defend,” said Fletcher, “but we only scored 2.4 goals per game, and with Thomas maybe that pushes us closer to 2.6 or 2.7 or whatever the number is — maybe some nights we have a little bit more breathing room. … Scoring goals is a big part of winning games and he’s a game breaker.”

Whether Vanek can be the “game breaker” that the Wild are hoping for remains to be seen. His highest goal-scoring year came when he was in his early 20s (43 goals for Buffalo in 2006-07). His second-highest was when he was in his mid-20s (40 goals for Buffalo in 2008-09). That’s the trend for most of the NHL’s top snipers. Once they reach their 30s, the legs get a little heavier, the body isn’t as fresh as it once was, and the goals become harder to come by. (See: Dany Heatley.)

Not that the Wild would be upset if Vanek could only muster 30 goals, or even just 25. But it doesn’t change the fact that he needs to perform, and he needs to do it under the spotlight of playing in his home state, which just so happens to be the State of Hockey.

“It’s awesome,” said Vanek. “The best thing is my career was winning an NCAA Championship with the Gophers. To be a part of the Wild now and go after the big prize, having a chance to do it here in Minnesota is beyond my wildest dreams.”

  1. wutangwild - Aug 13, 2014 at 11:19 AM

    As long as he doesn’t turn into Heatley 2.0 in these next three years, which I don’t think will happen (at least not to the degree of Heater’s downfall), this is a solid signing. Welcome back to MN Tommy! Ahh I remember that championship 10 years ago…time flies

    • illogic87 - Aug 13, 2014 at 12:25 PM

      I dont get how people can compare him to Dany Heatley? Did you even look at Vanek’s stats from last year? How does that remind you Heatley?

      • homegrowntalentmn - Aug 13, 2014 at 12:43 PM

        Lack of speed. Reminds us of how heatley started his wild career and ended it.

      • guitarhunterdude - Aug 13, 2014 at 5:13 PM

        Heatley had 80 points in SJ the year before he came here. They’re both fairly slow.

        The difference is Heatley is both lazy in the weight room and limited in what he can actually do in there by injuries from his car wreck (supposedly, he can’t squat). Vanek’s got a reputation for being a lazy guy, too, but he doesn’t have those lingering injuries that seemed to drag Heater down even faster.

      • dlukenelson - Aug 14, 2014 at 9:54 PM

        Comparison of Heatley and Vanek is completely superficial.

  2. phtjoey - Aug 13, 2014 at 12:00 PM

    vanek 1.0 s/b better than heatley 2.0…. still…… the guy is floater…. glides more than a super glider plane

    • wutangwild - Aug 13, 2014 at 12:09 PM

      Well at least he can glide…Heater looked like he had ACME concrete in his skates the last two years. As long as he can put up somewhere around 30 goals I will be happy. The rest of our team D should cover his lapses. It will be interesting who’s line he ends up on.

      • phtjoey - Aug 13, 2014 at 12:38 PM

        30 goals would be very good. but he’ll need to play better in the playoffs than he did last season

      • rsmaggiemae - Aug 13, 2014 at 3:32 PM

        I dont understand why you fans are so down on Vanek
        Here is my take, I followed him all last year with the Sabres,Islanders, and Habs
        The reason if any of you fans paid any attention in the playoff games with the Habs
        is that the stupid coach of the Habs kept switching lines on him he played very well with Eller and Gionta, but was on the line with Paciaretyy and Deharnais, which there was no chemistry at all… none what so ever… it was the biggest mistake that Thierien made .. but yet he blames it on Vanek ,,.
        He had great chemistry with Tavarres, Okposo and Pomanville and Stafford
        so give the guy a chance..
        now if you all remember that when Parise and Suter signed the Wild were terrible for the first 3 months and I ever heard was they have to find thier chemistry, so maybe it will take a while for Vanek to get his chemistry also.
        I like his PP and being in the high slot for the tip ins, yes, he is not as fast as he used to be,but he is a huge body to move in front of that net for the rebounds
        Look at his PP stats for last year..
        I was at the championship game in 2003 and have always loved Vanek
        And also consider how hard it must have been for him personally to move to 3 different teams in 3 months, leave his family behind and not being able to see them it has to be a psychological issue in some ways
        All I want to say is give this guy a chance ..
        and he is not like Heatly in any way..
        Vanek gave up huge money to come back home and maybe this will give him more incentive to play in front of the hometown crowd..
        Heatly at 7.3 mil a year??
        He sued the Ottawa team fro 4 mil last year
        and now he is going after his ex agent for 11 mil
        so there is a huge difference in character between the two players
        I want a player who wants to play here for the fans…and his hometown

      • phtjoey - Aug 13, 2014 at 7:00 PM

        “Vanek gave up huge money to come back home and maybe this will give him more incentive to play in front of the hometown crowd..”

        Maybe is the operative word….. kind of sucks that you sign a player to a big contract and hope that he’ll have more incentive…

        anyway, the stupid coach bounced him around on different lines and benched him because he wasn’t playing to his full potential.

        like you said, “maybe this will give him more incentive to play in front of the hometown crowd..”

      • bsaures - Aug 14, 2014 at 8:08 AM

        Ever th8nk he was demoted because of his poor play and not that he didnt play well because he was demoted? Therrien gave him more than enough chances on the playoffs before he pulled the plug on his icetime. Vanek simply mailed it in after the regular season

  3. govtminion - Aug 13, 2014 at 1:49 PM

    I’m just glad he’s in the West now… guy used to make life hell on the Bruins, seeing him twice a year now beats half a dozen or so. Stay away, Vanek!

    • rsmaggiemae - Aug 13, 2014 at 3:38 PM

      I watched the game where he was just brutal against the Bruins..
      I think he got a hat trick…
      i am glad he is back in Minnesota
      Can we get Boychuk from the Bruins????

  4. billiam55 - Aug 13, 2014 at 2:10 PM

    lol vanek looked miserable playing with montreal. hopefully he rebounds with the wild which i think he will.

  5. hockeyflow33 - Aug 13, 2014 at 2:17 PM

    I’m just glad to see he won’t be playing against the B’s regularly

    • rsmaggiemae - Aug 13, 2014 at 3:39 PM

      He was brutal against the Bruins, watched all the games he played against them
      He was really great hope he can do the same here in Minnesota
      but I am confident he will be playing in his hometown

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