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The Minnesota Wild have bought out the contract of Thomas Vanek, which should open up a large amount of salary cap space for the team.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo first reported the news of the Wild’s decision.
According to General Fanager, Vanek’s buyout salary cap hit for next season comes to $1.5 million, which gives the team $5 million in savings over the next year from Vanek’s $6.5 million contract.
The following year, Vanek’s buyout cap hit will escalate to $2.5 million.
“It was a dream of mine to come back to the State of Hockey and I got to fulfill that, but obviously not the way I hoped," Vanek told Russo. "I think I can score 25, 30 goals in the right situation. As disappointing as it is ... the focus is to find the right fit."
The Wild now have $14.17 million in salary cap space this summer. The only major restricted free agents they need to re-sign are forward Jason Zucker ($900,250 salary cap hit) and Matt Dumba (entry-level contract).
This should give them more than enough room to try to find free agents to fill their holes.
The decision to sign Vanek ended up being one of the larger mistakes made by general manager Chuck Fletcher the last several years.
In the summer of 2014, the Wild signed Vanek to a three-year $19.5 million contract. He was coming off a season where he had 68 points and 27 goals in 78 games with the Buffalo Sabres, Montreal Canadiens and New York Islanders. The year before he had 41 points in 38 games played with the Sabres, the team that drafted him in 2003.
With the Wild, Vanek averaged 0.60 points per-game and 0.25 goals per-game in 154 games played. In 598 games with the Sabres he averaged 0.83 points per-game and 0.42 goals per-game. The 32-year-old Vanek has scored 40-or-more goals twice in his NHL career.
During the Wild’s playoff push, Vanek was scratched at points and never seemed to mesh with his teammates in the city where he had collegiate success with the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
Recently, Vanek had also been the subject of off-ice legal drama and it’s unclear how much that played a role in his drop in production.
Where will Vanek end up now that he will be an unrestricted free agent and what team would want him after his problems with the Wild?
If a team is looking for goal scoring at a bargain price, Vanek could be an option – though a multi-year deal may be tough for him to find moving forward.
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