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Vanek should be able to help Canucks’ dreadful power play

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The Vancouver Canucks added another veteran player to their roster on Friday night when they signed Thomas Vanek to a one-year, $2 million contract.

It is not a move on its own that is going to push the Canucks back into playoff contention on its, but it is fine value in free agency for a veteran forward that still has some ability and could potentially be flipped at the deadline for another prospect or draft pick if the Canucks are out of it. In the short-term one area that he might be able to help the Canucks on the ice is adding a little bit more spark to a power play unit that has been one of the worst in the NHL the past two seasons.

“That’s one of my specialties,” Vanek said, via NHL.com on Friday night, shortly after the signing was announced. “I think I am still very good in front of the net and tipping pucks and reading other players and finding that open space, so it’s definitely in my mindset to come in there and work for that power-play time.”

Since the 2005-06 season only Alex Ovechkin has scored more power play goals than Vanek’s 129. He scored five this past season in only 68 games split between the Detroit Red Wings and Florida Panthers. That is a pretty far drop from what he used to be able to do during his peak seasons in Buffalo, but keep in mind there were only two Canucks players (Daniel Sedin with six and Loui Eriksson with five) that scored five power play goals this past season.

The Canucks finished with the second-worst power play unit in the league this past season, converting on only 14.1 percent of their chances. Only the Colorado Avalanche (12.6 percent) were worse. In 2015-16 the Canucks were 27th at 15.8 percent. Over the two years combined their 15 percent success rate has been the worst in the NHL. That has helped contribute to a team that has been one of the lowest scoring teams in the league (29th in goals for each year).

Vanek scored 17 goals to go with 31 assists in his 68 games this past season with the Red Wings and Panthers. On a per-game level his production was the highest it had been in four years.

Canucks sign Vanek to one-year, $2M deal

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The Canucks were busy when the free agent market opened July 1, and apparently they weren’t done there, signing another unrestricted free agent forward on the first day of September.

Thomas Vanek is now a member of the Canucks.

On Friday, the team announced a one-year contract for Vanek, worth $2 million.

“Thomas has been a prolific scorer throughout his career and we’re excited to add his offence and experience to help with the continued growth of our forwards,” said general manager Jim Benning.

“His skill and ability to contribute on the scoresheet, combined with his lead-by-example style will help our team this year, and will benefit our younger players as they continue to develop their game.”

Now 33 years old, Vanek scored 17 goals and 48 points last season, as he split his time between Detroit and Florida. That total would’ve put him third on the 2016-17 Canucks in points. Vancouver has struggled mightily to score goals over the past two seasons and fell near the bottom of the overall standings.

Once a dominant scorer in the NHL, Vanek’s numbers aren’t what they used to be, but he should still be able to offer something offensively to his new team, which finished 29th in the league last season in goals-for per game.

This deal leaves the Canucks with about $5.375 million in available cap space, with 22-year-old restricted free agent center Bo Horvat still unsigned and due for a raise after progressing as the team’s most productive player during what was a dreadful 2016-17 season for the organization.

Of course, it adds another winger to the roster — Vancouver now has 16 forwards under contract on the roster, per CapFriendly — with youngsters like Jake Virtanen, Brock Boeser and Nikolay Goldobin looking to crack the NHL club for the upcoming season.

Will Thomas Vanek get signed soon?

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Thomas Vanek might not be the elite player he once was, but he’s still a solid contributor which makes the fact that he remains unsigned as we near September surprising. His wait might be nearing its end though.

”I do feel optimistic that something will come through for both of these guys in the next week or two,” Vanek’s agent agent Steve Bartlett said on Buffalo’s WGR 550, per TSN.ca. “And I think definitely the temperature has risen from teams around the league on both players.”

The other player Bartlett was referring to was Drew Stafford, who has since signed a one-year deal with New Jersey. That adds more foundation to Bartlett’s words.

Vanek had 17 goals and 48 points in 68 contests with the Detroit Red Wings and Florida Panthers in 2016-17, which isn’t bad production considering he was averaging a modest 14:24 minutes per game. In fact, for what it’s worth Vanek did finish 16th in the league in points per 60 minutes, which was just below the 75-point Vladimir Tarasenko, who of course got considerably more ice time.

That’s not to suggest that Vanek could have done as well as Tarasenko had they gotten equal use, but it does highlight how productive Vanek was relative to his minutes. He could be a nice bargain bin pickup for whatever team finally inks him.

Red Wings still have work to do with Tatar, Athanasiou; Vanek?

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Much of the NHL seems to be in something like a “vacation mode,” but not the Detroit Red Wings.

GM Ken Holland still has work to do, with some tasks being more optional and others standing as more urgent.

In the most urgent category: figuring out how to handle the seemingly strained situation with Tomas Tatar. MLive.com’s Ansar Khan provides an update on the situation, which unfortunately seems like more of the same.

Tatar’s camp has rejected a five-year offer of $5 million per season, wanting six or seven years at closer to $6 million a season, a source said.

Neither side appears willing to budge, which could result in a rare hearing for the Red Wings before an arbitrator next Thursday in Toronto. If it reaches that stage, Tatar will receive a one-year contract because he is eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer.

A one-year contract might not be so promising in the long-term, as there are rumblings that such a situation might prompt Tatar to eventually leave Detroit.

Khan provides a rosier update for Andreas Athanasiou. Without arbitration rights, the Red Wings might be able to leverage the speedy forward into a cheap deal. Khan pegs a possible deal at two years with a cap hit of $1.5 million.

While Athanasiou and Tatar are more crucial scenarios, there’s also the question of possibly bringing back Thomas Vanek.

Both Khan and the Detroit Free Press’ Helene St. James report that, while there’s mutual interest in Vanek returning to the Red Wings, those two younger forwards are expected to eat up too much cap space.

It’s a tight situation for Holland & Co., so it wouldn’t be surprising if that front office will have to wait until August to enjoy a day at the beach.

Panthers acquire Vanek for McIlrath, pick

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Florida has added the goalscoring winger it wanted for a playoff push.

Thomas Vanek, who leads the Red Wings with 15 goals this season, has been acquired in exchange for defenseman Dylan McIlrath and a third-round pick, per TSN.

Vanek, 33, is on a one-year, $2.6 million deal. Detroit’s retaining 50 percent of his salary in this trade, so it’s an affordable pickup for the Panthers.

The Austrian winger should fit nicely into an offensively gifted group that includes Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Jaromir Jagr, Vincent Trocheck, Reilly Smith and Jussi Jokinen. Vanek should also help out on the power play, where he has five markers this season.

“Thomas is a proven scorer in this league who will add some offensive savvy and experience to our young group of forwards,” Panthers GM Dale Tallon said in a release. “We believe strongly in our group and we’re confident that he will help our power play and supplement our core effectively.”

As for the other side of things…

The Red Wings, who will see their 25-year playoff streak snapped, began selling off assets yesterday by flipping Brendan Smith to the Rangers, and Steve Ott to the Habs.

Early analysis has panned GM Ken Holland for his sub-par return for Vanek who — while somewhat flawed — has enjoyed a bounce-back season in Detroit, and has a history for finding the back of the net.