UFA of the Day: Thomas Vanek

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Check PHT each weekday for the first four weeks of June for a new pending unrestricted free agent of the day. Today’s UFA of the Day is…

Thomas Vanek

The scoring leader of the projected 2014 unrestricted free agent class, Vanek’s contract season was nothing if not eventful. He started the campaign with the Buffalo Sabres, but they quickly traded to the New York Islanders for Matt Moulson and picks.

The Sabres were focusing on rebuilding while, at the time, the Islanders hoped that Vanek would be able to push them into contention after they made the 2013 playoffs. It didn’t work out like that, but it was hardly Vanek’s fault as he formed one of the league’s most effective top lines with Kyle Okposo and John Tavares. It became clear the Islanders weren’t going to make the playoffs though and they couldn’t re-sign him, so he was traded once again, this time to Montreal.

Vanek’s tenure with the Canadiens proved to be a lot less pleasant. He was underwhelming in the playoffs, averaging just 14:52 minutes per contest, and took some heat after the New York Rangers eliminated the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Final. Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur in particular questioned Vanek’s ability to perform when faced with adversity. His rough playoff run might have also lessened the Minnesota Wild’s interest in him.

He’s still arguably the top prize in this weak free agent market, but he’s no longer a slam dunk to get the massive contract that once appeared to be a foregone conclusion.