In this Summer of Uncertainty, players of all ages are faced with the tough decision of where to go next for their career. The past few weeks, I’ve focused on the younger guys or players who may retire but today let’s focus on a guy who still seems to have gas in the tank. Thomas Vanek.
Vanek’s agent Steve Bartlett said “his intent is to play” according to this article from Pierre LeBrun. Before we jump to what’s next, let’s take a look back.
Vanek started his first years in the NHL with the Buffalo Sabres where he played 598 NHL games between 2005-2013. Vanek then was traded to the New York Islanders in 2013. Vanek played 47 games on the Island before he was dealt again that season, this time to the Montreal Canadians where he finished out 17 games. Over the next 5 seasons, Vanek bounced around to 5 NHL teams: Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Vancouver Canucks, and Columbus Blue Jackets.
Between 8 teams and 14 seasons, the 35-year-old forward has produced 373 goals with 416 assists for 789 points, 95.9 estimated career point shares adding a +9 rating and 547 PIMs. To say he’s seen it all is an understatement. The big defference between Vanek and most 35-year-old forwards is his ability to adapt in this ever-changing league. He can still keep up with the kids who have made this game so much faster. Last season with the Red Wings, Vanek still managed 36 points (16 G, 20 A) in 64 games while averaging only 14:07 on the ice per game.
Vanek is a veteran leader off the ice. He’s the guy talking to the media, boosting the team, kicking them in the boot when need be. Every team needs that kind of player to keep the boys focused. He’s got value on and off the ice at 35 so this in’t the end of his career, even though he’s still unsigned in mid-August (but that’s what’s cool with the kidz right now apparently).
Vanek would work with a team that needs that veteran leadership to maybe coral in the young players and add depth on the ice. The past 3 contracts that Vanek has been signed to have all bee a one-year deal, between $2 million and $3 million, so it’s safe to say that his next one is going to mirror these past three.
He could end up in a place like Philadelphia, where the team age averaged 26.6 years old last season and they have $13,417,421 in cap space with a roster size of 20. The Flyers do have to look at picking up Travis Konecny once again as he’s hanging out as an RFA still (once again, cool with the kidz). But with captain Claude Giroux, Justin Braun, and Matt Niskanen, Vanek could slide in as a good back up veteran leader for Philly at a low cost.
Another team could even be the Winnipeg Jets. They were another one of the younger teams last season but I just talked about yesterday how the Jets should focus on resigning Laine and Connor, yet the team does have $17,592,503 in Cap Space. Once Laine and Connor are resolved, the team could make a small deal with Vanek.
Whatever happens next, we haven’t seen the last of Vanek. He’s a gritty soul and he’ll be hanging onto the league as long as he can skate. There are a number of teams that can use this kind of veteran talent and energy. But only time will tell where he’ll be next.
Featured Image: NHL.com