Vanek: Decision not to sign with Isles involves more ‘than a contract’

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Thomas Vanek says the decision to pass on New York’s “substantial” contract offer has more to do than just numbers on a page.

“I said from the beginning that I like it here,” Vanek told SNY TV. “But there goes more into it than a contract. It is what it is, but I’m sure we’ll continue to talk.”

The reports of Vanek rejecting the offer came after he said he’d be open to the idea of sticking with the Isles, be it through a new deal or returning after a potential deadline trade. The Austrian forward is set to become a free agent in July and, last week, said he’d think about coming back to New York even if he got moved.

From Newsday:

“I know Garth gave up a lot to get me here, so if they feel they need to get something back (by the deadline), I understand,” Vanek told Newsday. “He’s been great, the team has been great. No one has put any pressure on me.”

There haven’t been any substantive contract talks between the two sides, which just adds to the limbo of the situation. But even though Vanek hasn’t indicated via his agent or directly to Snow whether he’d be willing to sign before July 1, saying that the Islanders “would definitely be on my list” when free agency begins could be seen as a sign he’s not crossing them off to force a trade.

“Even if they traded me, sure,” Vanek said. “I like it here, it’s a good group of guys. This would be a place I’d consider if it gets to July 1.”

But it appears he’s no longer thinking that way.

Vanek’s in the final year of a seven-year, $50 million deal, so one can only imagine what New York’s “substantial” offer looked like. If Vanek did indeed turn it down, it gives a good gauge of his desire to hit the open market this summer, where he’ll be one of the most sought-after free agents available — in a year where the cap is expected to rise to $71 million.

Of course, this may not be about the money, as Chris Botta of the Sports Business Journal notes:

Vanek has long been rumored to be interested in joining Minnesota — he played his college hockey for the Golden Gophers and ex-Buffalo teammate Jason Pominville is playing very well for the Wild this season. Mike Russo of the Star-Tribune says his guess has “always been the Wild waits until free agency to pursue Vanek,” as Minnesota will finally have Dany Heatley’s $7.5 million cap hit come off the books.

Isles head coach Jack Capuano seemed all but resigned to the fact Vanek would be headed to market.

“I hear about those things, I read about those things and for me as a coach, I just try to coach and teach the players that we have,” Capuano explained. “Obviously Garth [Snow, Isles GM] has talked to him and his agent, and if the decision is make that he wants to test free agency in July, that’s his decision.”