Yesterday we were greeted with the news that former Gopher great and current NHL sniper Thomas Vanek left upwards of 30 million dollars (!!!!) to sign a 3 year deal with the Wild. This is a move most people will say they saw coming down the pipeline years in advance, but I never once thought it was a foregone conclusion, especially with the Wild's reluctance to go super long term with free agents this time around. It is exciting because it's a move people have anticipated since the day he left the U for Buffalo, and rumors and excitement for #26 have only booned with the arrival of ex-teammate and good friend Jason Pominville from Buffalo a year and a half ago.
On ice, it’s pretty much a consensus that this is a good move due to the fact that Vanek agreed to take less money and less years, giving the Wild the flexibility to sign some of their younger guys like Haula, Granlund, and company later on, while at the same time giving the offensively challenged team some much needed fire power. It also leaves the Wild free of any obligation during Vanek’s exit from his prime in 3 years, which is huge considering they are still on the hook for 11 more years of Suter and Parise each, and who knows what kind of players they will be 7-8 years from now. That’s about as in depth as I feel comfortable going since I’m not by any means a hockey X’s and O’s mind, but it sure seems to me that this move will help the wet blanket that has for many years been the offense. I’m super excited about it because he was my first favorite player at the U, and the first Gopher that I really made a point to follow regularly once he went on to the NHL. Now I actually get to watch him night in, night out again for the first time since I was like 12. I can’t wait.
Another reason this is huge is on a much more macro level of Minnesota sports. Finally it feels like the Wild are becoming a free agent destination. I know there are obvious connections to the state for Vanek, but there were 30 million extra reasons to go elsewhere that he left on the table. It feels like the Wild brass’ plan is coming to fruition right before our eyes, as they are getting really good at supplementing their homegrown young core with key free agents and trades. Honestly the Twins should take notes.
Having these big name guys come here, just to be here and try to win together is a great feeling as a fan, and one that none of us have ever really had before. I said it yesterday and I’ll say it again today, it feels like we are kind of the Heat of hockey now. Obviously it is a lot tougher to get to the Stanley Cup Final out of our conference than it is for Miami to make it to the NBA Final out of the hapless East, but it feels like the Wild are building a winning culture here around Suter, Parise, and the kids, and other players are taking notice. I’ve said it a dozen times by now I bet, but he left 30 million dollars on the table. To come here. That’s something that players do when they are ring chasing—when they want to go to Chicago, Detroit (in the past), Pittsburgh, etc. Not to come to the Wild. I know they won’t play a meaningful period for another 3+ months, but it already seems like a big win.
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