Three weeks ago, Minnesota Wild fans couldn’t wait to hand Thomas Vanek a Forest Green sweater, a $7 Million per year contract and probably the captaincy. Now, many have begun to compare the struggling Montreal winger to *gasp* Dany Heatley.
Though Vanek does lead the Canadiens with five postseason goals, he’s only scored in three games and hasn’t even managed a shot on goal in three of the 13 playoff games he’s played this year. Tonight, he could be a healthy scratch in a vitally important Game Three against the Rangers in New York after rotating on and off the Habs’ fourth line with rookie Michael Bournival in practice yesterday.
It has been denied by many, but there is a possibility Vanek is playing injured, and that would definitely affect his performance, shooting in particular. His performance has dropped significantly since being caught in the aftermath of a P.K. Subban body check on Boston’s Reilly Smith. Subban bounced off Smith and hit Vanek, who headed to the dressing room before eventually coming back to the bench later in the game. If he is injured, sitting out tonight’s game would give him five days of rest between Monday’s Game Two loss in Montreal and Sunday’s Game Four matchup at MSG.
This, of course, is not an ideal situation for an impending unrestricted free agent forward looking to walk into some big money this offseason. It is, however, good for any team looking to sign him, and that includes the Wild.
With the salary cap making life difficult for a lot of teams, GM’s looking for a great scorer at an even better price will take whatever they can get, even if it means signing a proven veteran coming off a bad postseason campaign. One bad playoff run does not a bust make, and that’s exactly what Wild GM Chuck Fletcher is banking on when he hands the former fifth overall pick a contract on July 1st.
With several marquee players hitting free agency following poor postseasons, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Fletcher pull off the proverbial heist or two in the process of putting the finishing touches on a legitimate Stanley Cup contender for next season.