What a difference two years can make.
On Friday, the Star-Tribune reported that Minnesota informed Thomas Vanek he’d be bought out of the last of his three-year, $19.5 million deal — just two years after Vanek called signing for his hometown team “beyond my wildest dreams.”
Which makes today something of a rude awakening.
The Wild have since made the buyout official. The rumors of it have been around for a while, so it doesn’t come as a huge surprise. But it is a major development, the latest in a series of disappointments for Vanek since returning to Minnesota, where he starred with the Golden Gophers and captured the 2003 NCAA championship.
Vanek 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.
“In order to give our team more salary cap flexibility we needed to make this difficult decision,” said GM Chuck Fletcher. “We thank Thomas for his time with the Minnesota Wild and wish him the best going forward.”
The financial details of today’s buyout, per Cap Friendly:
Okposo is from St. Paul and he played college hockey for the Gophers. He’s also coming off a solid campaign (22 goals, 42 points) and is only 28 years old, so the fit with Minnesota is definitely there.
As for Vanek, it’ll be curious to see where he lands. Though his production has plummeted and he turns 33 next season, there’s probably a number of teams that’ll be interested in bringing him aboard, especially at a discounted rate.
For what it’s worth, he believes he’s still capable of being a quality scorer at the NHL level.
“I’m not happy with my year,” he said back in April. “But I still believe I’m a 30-goal scorer.”