So Thomas Vanek ended up in Minnesota after all – signing a three-year, $19.5-million contract with the Wild simply because he wanted to play there. He played his college hockey there; his wife is from there; his off-season home is there; and thus, he gave the Wild a hometown discount. Vanek left about $30-million on the table, after he turned down a seven-year, $50-million contract extension offer with the New York Islanders.
Minnesota didn’t want to give Vanek the sort of term they gave both Ryan Suter and Zach Parise (13 years, $98-million) two years ago, when they made the biggest splash in the free-agent market of all NHL teams.
Vanek’s signing essentially takes the Wild out of the running for Jarome Iginla, who is now in talks with the Vancouver Canucks, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Detroit Red Wings about a possible contract extension. Minnesota had the dollars to commit to Vanek after Dany Heatley’s $7-million contract expired – and though Vanek didn’t have much of a playoff with the Montreal Canadiens last year, is surely an upgrade on the fading Heatley. According to TSN, Vanek’s contract calls for $5.5-million this year, $6.5-million next year and $7.5-million in the final year of the deal.
Vanek had 68 points in 78 games playing for three teams – Montreal, the Islanders and the Buffalo Sabres – last season. He is a two-time 40-goal scorer (43 in 2006-07 and 40 in 2008-09), but hasn’t scored more than 32 goals in any of the past five seasons.
But with Parise, Jason Pominville, Mikko Koivu along with young and up comers Mikael Granlund, Nino Neiderreiter and Charlie Coyle, Minnesota should be able to improve on an offence that produced just 207 goals last season, which is in the bottom third of the league.