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Why Vanek was the ‘power play’ free-agency selection for Detroit

The fact the Detroit Red Wings were desperate for offensive options this summer was one of the most open secrets in NHL, but it's probably fair to say not many expected the franchise to sign Thomas Vanek. While the 32-year-old is coming off the back of a modest couple of seasons with the Minnesota Wild, Detroit feel as though a one-year contract worth $2.6 million was a very worthwhile risk to take after the Austrian was bought out of the final year of his deal. The Red Wings had been very interested in Alexander Radulov, who ended up signing for Montreal, but a late swoop for Vanek may end up looking like a very smart piece of business come the end of next season.

Vanek's recent form

While Vanek's achievements in Buffalo during his time with the Sabres has made him one of the best European players in the NHL over the past decade, it's probably fair to say the Austrian has really failed to recapture that form over the past few seasons. A below-par couple of years in Minnesota was enough to convince the Wild to cut their losses on the forward, and the Red Wings wasted little time in snapping him up. Having left Buffalo halfway through the 2013-14 season, the Austrian spent time with the New York Islanders and the Montreal Canadiens, adding another 27 goals and 78 games to his NHL tally. The veteran scored 18 goals in 74 appearances last season for the Wild and 21 goals in 80 games the season before. 

(CC BY-ND 2.0) by  grilled cheese

Vanek's power play potential

He might not score the 40+ goals he managed twice during his Buffalo career, but Vanek's experience may prove to be crucial to Detroit's hopes of making a charge for the Stanley Cup this year, something they have odds of 27/1 with 32Red Canada and 888sport at the time of writing. Just like Radulov, Vanek is a massive winger, coming in at six-foot-two and 218 pounds, which will be a real benefit for the Wings in terms of the power plays. A powerful winger capable of scoring goals, Vanek could be a major part of Detroit's power plays next year, and that was certainly one of the biggest reasons why the Wings opted for him over Radulov. On top of what he brings to the team on the ice, Vanek will also have a role to play in terms of helping the younger players on the Detroit roster. 

A better option than Radulov

​The most obvious reason as to why the Wings went with the Austrian rather than Radulov will be the fact Vanek cost half what Montreal had to shell out to bring the Russian back to the NHL. He might be two years older than Radulov, but Vanek has shown what he can do in the NHL consistently over the past few years while there is still something of the unknown about a player who has only played a handful of games in North America since 2008. While Vanek hasn't scored the same level of goals over the past few years, his fitness is still as good as it has ever been, with the wing missing just 15 games over the past five seasons. There is also the small matter of Radulov's temperament, something that plagued his time in Nashville before the forward made the decision to return to Russia and ply his trade in the KHL. 

(CC BY 2.0) by  s.yume

Detroit's chances in 2016

For a franchise that has become extremely used to winning, it's been a tough few seasons for the Detroit Red Wings. While their regular season form has been patchy for their past three years, it's been their failure to make it beyond the first round of the playoffs that has really left a bitter taste in the Detroit fans' mouth recently. The arrival of Vanek might not instantly turn the franchise into contenders this season, but having an experienced veteran in the shape of the Austrian has the potential to be a very decent deal. There may be a number of teams stronger than them at the moment, but as of July 26 the Wings' odds of around 14/1 with 32Red and other bookmakers to top the Eastern Conference might end up looking like a very decent bet for punters. 

Filed in: NHL Teams, Detroit Red Wings, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: thomas+vanek


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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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