Pierre LeBrun of ESPN and Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News had the details on Vanek's contract:
As per @GMillerTSN , 3 years x $6.5 M AAV for Vanek with Minnesota— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) July 1, 2014
Vanek deal includes a NTC— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) July 1, 2014
Arthur Staple of Newsday reported that the Islanders were finalists for Vanek:
Bad earlier info from me: Thomas Vanek chose Wild over #Isles, who came in with late offer. Those were his two finalists.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) July 1, 2014
Vanek's eight-plus-year tenure with the Buffalo Sabres came to an end this past season as the two sides made no progress in terms of contract negotiations. Vanek was shipped to the New York Islanders, but his time with the Isles lasted just 47 games as the team struggled in the standings and failed to re-sign him as well.
Is this a smart signing?
He ultimately landed with the Montreal Canadiens as the Habs hoped he could put them over the top in their pursuit of the Stanley Cup.
Vanek certainly had his moments in Montreal, but didn't rise to the occasion during the playoffs. He posted just 10 points in 17 games as the Habs fell to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final.
He didn't endear himself to the Canadiens' fanbase or their alumni. According to La Presse, (h/t Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! Sports), Canadiens legend Guy Lafleur was less than impressed with Vanek's playoff showing.
"Guys like Vanek and Pacioretty, you can't keep them on your team," Lafleur said. "They can stay home if they are not willing to pay the price. Your team is never going to win with players like them who disappear when they face adversity."
Some might view it as excuse-making, but Vanek's explanation for his subpar point production in the postseason related to the line combinations that head coach Michel Therrien put together, per Pat Hickey of The Montreal Gazette:
I'm a big believer in chemistry. I started in Buffalo and I went to the Island, where I got comfortable with Johnny (Tavares) and (Kyle) Okposo and our line took off and then your game takes off. When I first got here, I struggled a bit and then I got moved to Davey (Desharnais) and Patch (Max Pacioretty) and I think as a line we were great, one of the best lines. Then I got taken off and I struggled to find myself with a new line. I played with (Tomas Plekanec) for most of the playoffs and it didn't work. We are, I believe, both very good players, but it didn't work. We're not on the same page, just different games.
There was already plenty of vitriol being spewed in Vanek's direction in Montreal prior to those comments, but he certainly didn't help his cause. Vanek was viewed by some as a player who wasn't fully committed to winning a championship.
Stu Cowan of The Montreal Gazette believes that Vanek disrupted some of the harmony that the Habs' roster had built up over the course of the season:
I feel sorry for the team that signs Thomas Vanek. He really let a group of CHaracter guys down #Habs— Stu Cowan (@StuCowan1) May 30, 2014
Whether or not Vanek is a locker room cancer is something that only the Canadiens players and coaches know for sure, but there is no question that he is capable of doing some special things on the ice.
Vanek has scored 30 or more goals in a season on four occasions and has 556 career points to his credit in 663 games. He is an underrated playmaker and has a big shot, but his best asset is his ability to camp in front of the net on the power play and make things happen.
For all the talk of Vanek being a questionable teammate, he is more than willing to take punishment and do whatever it takes to put the puck in the net.
Provided he continues to play that way, he may ultimately be the best signing of the offseason.
Teams have to pay a premium for goal scorers in the NHL, and there is no question that Vanek was expensive, but he has the potential to be a franchise-changing player if he performs up to his potential.
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