Apr 10, 2014; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens forward Thomas Vanek (20) skates before the game against the New York Islanders at the Bell Centre. The New YorkIslanders defeated the Montreal Canadiens 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Are the Minnesota Wild Still Interested in Thomas Vanek?

After signing top free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to identical $98 Million deals two summers ago, the Minnesota Wild could still be in the hunt for another top free agent–current Montreal Canadiens winger Thomas Vanek.

According to an article by Pioneer Press writer Charley Walters, Wild owner Craig Leipold will “go all out” for the impending unrestricted free agent. Vanek, 30, has spent this season between three different organizations, scoring 27 goals and 68 points in 78 games with the Buffalo Sabres, New York Islanders and the Canadiens. The former Minnesota Golden Gopher has never scored fewer than 20 goals in his nine seasons in the National Hockey League, and has scored 30 or more four times in that span. In his NHL career, Vanek has 277 goals and 279 assists for 556 points and a plus-41 rating in 663 games.

A player of his caliber could easily fetch a $40 Million five-year contract at minimum. The question is whether or not Wild GM Chuck Fletcher is willing to commit to such a deal with the talented veterans and blue chip youngsters already within the fold.

It appeared the door may have closed on signing Vanek when the Wild acquired left winger Matt Moulson from the Sabres at the trade deadline. Moulson, also an impending unrestricted free agent, is a three-time former 30-goal scorer with 141 goals and 134 assists for 275 points and a negative-13 rating in 397 games spanning a seven year career. In 75 regular season games between the Islanders, Sabres and Wild this season, he would score 23 goals and 28 assists for 51 points and a plus-2 rating. Moulson has consistently had chances throughout Minnesota’s first round series with the Colorado Avalanche, but has just one goal to show for it. He’s been solid, and would undoubtedly be a cheaper option than Vanek, but might not be what the club is looking for.

The logic is that Vanek replaces former two-time 50-goal scorer Dany Heatley in Minnesota’s lineup. However, Heater hasn’t exactly been playing top minutes and he has only himself to blame for it. Also, youngsters Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter and Erik Haula have had good seasons and have only improved in the postseason. Who’s to say they won’t come into September’s training camp ready to take the next step in their careers?

Looking at the Wild’s playoff performance, it’s hard to argue with the way they’ve played. Moulson hasn’t been much of a factor, but most of the other veterans, including Heatley, and the young guns have stepped up their game considerably. Minnesota clearly has the ability to win and, by rights, should be preparing for a rematch with the Chicago Blackhawks in Round Two rather than a must-win Game Seven in Denver.

They’ve done just fine without Vanek. Perhaps that money would be better spent addressing team needs elsewhere. Minnesota could always use another quality veteran defenseman after all.

Tags: Thomas Vanek

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