Vanek knows buyout could happen, but still believes he’s a 30-goal scorer

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The Wild had their end-of-year media interviews on Wednesday, which meant Thomas Vanek — the oft-criticized winger that missed all of the playoffs with broken ribs — was asked to address his future.

Vanek, heading into the last of a three-year, $19.5 million deal with a $6.5M cap hit, acknowledged he could be bought out the final season of his contract.

But he also made it clear he wants to stay in Minnesota, and vowed to perform better than this year, when he scored a career-low 18 goals.

To call Vanek’s time in Minnesota a disappointment would be an understatement. Expectations were sky high when he inked in the summer of 2014 — Vanek, who lives in Stillwater and played two years at the University of Minnesota, said the homecoming was “beyond my wildest dreams.”

There was hope the return to Minny would spark Vanek after a tumultuous ’13-14 campaign in which he was traded twice — once from the Sabres to the Isles, then from the Isles to the Habs — and struggled through a lackluster postseason with Montreal.

But the spark never happened.

Instead, Vanek looked like a guy that was on the back-nine of his career. He scored 21 goals in his first year with the Wild, only to disappear in the playoffs (no goals in 10 games). There was also the distraction of his ties to an illegal gambling ring.

This year, he was made a healthy scratch on a few occasions — by both Mike Yeo and John Torchetti — and didn’t play at all in the postseason.

If Wild GM Chuck Fletcher intends to shake up a team that got bounced in the first playoff round after consecutive Round 2 appearances, getting rid of Vanek might be a good place to start. It would trim some money from the cap — important, given the Wild are hovering right around the ceiling — and open up a roster spot at forward.

Related: GM Fletcher ‘not on any hot seat’ with Wild owner