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Custance: should Vanek return to the Wings? Depends on the term(s)

ESPN's Craig Custance penned an Insider-only entry in which he discusses every NHL team's "toughest free agent decision" for this upcoming summer, and Custance suggests that the Red Wings have to decide whether to bring an alumnus back into the fold:

Detroit Red Wings

F Thomas Vanek (Panthers)

Red Wings GM Ken Holland cleared out his unrestricted free agents at the trade deadline, so we’re cheating here a bit. But Vanek and the Red Wings both appeared genuinely interested in having the veteran winger in Detroit next season and beyond.

It’s the "beyond" part that gets a little dicey. Vanek is an elite offensive player who was used just about perfectly by coach Jeff Blashill, but isn’t necessarily a guy you want to pay for too many more seasons now that he's 33 years old.

Verdict: Bring him back to Detroit if he’ll sign on the cheap for three or fewer seasons. If not, thank him for the 48 games served and part ways.

Custance continues, and if I may be honest, I'm leaning toward "not bringing Vanek back" at this point, despite the magic he made happen.

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considering he is getting $2.5 million from the Wild next season I would wager he gets a one year deal offer from most other teams.

When thinking about his family (kids in school), having been in 6 cities since 2013, he may take any long term offer. If he gets that at age 33…...

Posted by howeandhowe from Seattle on 03/20/17 at 01:18 PM ET


I’m kinda either way but term is the thing. 2 years tops for me. He fit in nicely here but if you aren’t able to improve your D for next season, he’s not even worth having here.

Posted by tmoore4075 on 03/20/17 at 01:23 PM ET


On top of being possibly our best forward this season, Vanek was also a good mentor to AA according to Blashill, but my concern is that 1-year deal Vanek we saw this year and Vanek on a 3 year deal could be two different players.

Posted by VPalmer on 03/20/17 at 01:46 PM ET


Every team that has signed Vanek to longer term deals has regretted it.  Now that he is on the wrong side of 30, the Wings need to save money and get younger.

Posted by bababooey on 03/20/17 at 01:49 PM ET

MurrayChadwick's avatar

After we kick the tires on real UFAs and trades, if Vanek and Capspace are left, than a 1 year deal, same rate or less, ok, 2 years at less rate, maybe, and anything longer no way, see brah!

Posted by MurrayChadwick from Holland Hate Hyperbole Town (HHHT) on 03/20/17 at 01:55 PM ET

Primis's avatar

Both George and Custance are probably right.

It would be nice to re-sign Vanek and basically be able to say “Hey, free draft pick!”, but…  Vanek’s age and DET’s situation is such that I’m not so sure about next year now.

Posted by Primis on 03/20/17 at 02:16 PM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

On top of being possibly our best forward this season, Vanek was also a good mentor to AA…

Posted by VPalmer on 03/20/17 at 01:46 PM ET

And he made Nielsen a better player too. So, for those reasons (and his usefulness in shootouts), I’d love to see him back in Detroit. Three years at $3M seems fair to both sides (considering what guys like Helm and Abby are getting).

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 03/20/17 at 02:20 PM ET

DocF's avatar

I would say no more than 2 years at $2 million per year. 

Posted by DocF from Now: Lynn Haven, FL; was Reidsville, NC on 03/20/17 at 02:34 PM ET

PierreC's avatar

Vanek’s numbers so far in Florida

2016-17 Florida Panthers NHL 9 1 6 7 2 -6

Not too impressive. I like what i saw with Vanek but he is a very fragile player mentally and physically. When he doesn’t feel like playing it can get ugly.

A cheap 2 years at about 6m could be interesting.l

Posted by PierreC from Montreal, Canada on 03/20/17 at 02:37 PM ET

PierreC's avatar

although in Florida they seems to like him…


Posted by PierreC from Montreal, Canada on 03/20/17 at 02:39 PM ET

PierreC's avatar

but that article is from march 10th

Posted by PierreC from Montreal, Canada on 03/20/17 at 02:40 PM ET


5 years at 4.5M per sounds about right. Maybe 6 years at 5M per

Posted by teldar on 03/20/17 at 03:00 PM ET


Does Tatar have sufficient trade value again to help get a top 2-3 defenseman?

We’re going to have to pay him if he keeps finishing strong.

That’s perhaps another factor in whether to bring back Vanek.

And it seems likely that whatever cost and term Vanek would settle for,
he is probably not going to want to be traded again.

Assuming KH is trying to again ice a team that can squeak into the playoffs,
and that the preference all around is for a somewhat entertaining team that
can score some goals, moving Tatar would open quite a hole.
Seems like we’d pretty much all have preferred to move Nyquist when he
had much more value…but since he doesn’t, Nyquist is another player who
enjoyed some chemistry with Vanek at times.

9/3 does sound fair to both sides. Especially compared to all of the bad long-term
contracts.Not that that’s the right criterion on its own merits.

Even if KH doesn’t understand the value of cap space for a rebuilding team, his successor might. Having enough space might allow us to take someone’s bad contract and fetch
a good young player/prospect in return.

But if the team is set on trying for the playoffs and icing a semi-entertaining team for
the new arena, creating maximum cap space is probably not on the agenda anyway.

It’s sort of: what would you do, vs. who might fit the team well, given management’s more
likely actual priorities.

Posted by Lefty30 on 03/20/17 at 03:13 PM ET


I like him but no. Unless you trade both nyquist and Tatar or manage to unload helm or something. Otherwise there is no space roster wise if mantha and AA need continued growth in ice time or to bring up Sevy if he’s ready etc. He’s only going to get worse as well. 

Posted by DieByTheWing on 03/20/17 at 03:29 PM ET

Hockeytown Wax's avatar

Yes, terms are an important factor in bring back Vanek

Its also important to find out where forwards like Bertuzzi and Frk and Nosek and Svechnikov are in their development.

You need to keep a proper balance between veterans and “kids”  If you bring back a veteran then who on the current roster does he replace ?

Which player are we going to lose to Las Vegas in the expansion draft ??

I think its waaaaaay too early to speculate whether he comes back or not but, if the roster spot is there and he’s not asking for a bazillion dollars then yeah I’d love to see him back.

Vanek was one of the few that showed consistent effort and produced points on a nightly basis like Zetterberg.

Posted by Hockeytown Wax from West Bloomfield, Mi. on 03/20/17 at 05:45 PM ET

TreKronor's avatar

He’ll probably get 3 or 4 years from a team,and 4 mil a year. Maybe 5.

I love him as a player. It’d be great to see him back to help the team and mentor and push the younger guys,but I’m not sure where it fits in.

Posted by TreKronor on 03/20/17 at 09:19 PM ET


He’ll probably get 3 or 4 years from a team,and 4 mil a year. Maybe 5.

I would certainly prefer to pay this to Tatar instead of Helm and Abby.

Posted by VPalmer on 03/21/17 at 09:47 AM ET


I don’t think the Wings can afford to have Vanek, Tatar and Nyquist. Since Nyquist is already under contract it might boil down to Vanek or Tatar. I’d lean towards Tatar. I just don’t like investing much in Vanek who is already past his prime.

The other factor is the Wings need to have cap space available for when AA, Mantha and Larkin need new contracts. Don’t paint yourself into a corner.

As for who Vegas takes in the expansion draft, my money is on Ouelett.

Posted by evileye on 03/21/17 at 11:54 AM ET


I think if we leave Ouellet exposed (as it now looks) over Jensen (yeesh, hopefully
we don’t expose both) he is a likely candidate to be picked up.

If Vegas wants to eschew older players who can make a short-term impact for
solid, younger players they can grow with, young and cheap with some
NHL experience under his belt makes sense for them.

That’d be a shame, as Ouellet, while not so speedy or ultra-skilled in any area,
strikes me as a guy who might be a solid, all-around #4, who plays with some
passion, for years.

Re: Vanek, what stands out to me, other than the fact he seemed to like
the team, and his teammates seemed to like him - a positive personality
and mentor - is that his skill set is so different from what anyone else gives us.
Only a player with extremely good hands and release could have embarrassed
goalies so many different ways in the shootout, but also in getting off shots
fast enough and accurate enough to beat good goalies in general.

No, he’s not fast. No he’s not physical. No he isn’t anyone’s idea of a natural
backchecking forward…but he is big and strong and inclined enough to go to the
net and set up or float just outside the paint - who else does that and can finish
so quickly and cleanly? I was surprised and impressed at how many other
forwards he made better with his smarts, vision and passing ability, too.

But our cap situation is no joke and it’s hard to see Holland motivated
enough or able to move another big contract(s) at forward to make
Vanek fit. As for the cap-room = great trade leverage and contract flexibility
route, I just don’t see Holland…well, seeing it the same way, let alone
going that route in order to due what teams like Arizona, Florida and Carolina
have done in trading some of their ample cap space for young talent.

Posted by Lefty30 on 03/21/17 at 01:36 PM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.