On July 1st, Thomas Vanek will depart from the Florida Panthers and become an unrestricted free agent. The 33-year-old still has plenty of gas left in the tank. With the New York Rangers extra cap space, they could make a serious run at Vanek.
Thomas Vanek is a hidden gem among this year’s free agent class. The veteran left winger brings power play experience that the Rangers desperately need, as well as a scoring touch. While Vanek has put his younger years behind him, his age hasn’t negatively impacted his numbers.
Originally buried in Buffalo with the Sabres, Vanek has become more of a journeyman in the last few years. Since being traded by the Sabres to the New York Islanders in 2013, Vanek has played for 5 different organizations, has been traded twice, and bought out once.
Don’t let his recent tour around the league fool you, though. Vanek can still produce at a high level. In 68 games between the Detroit Red Wings and Florida Panthers last season, Vanek potted 17 goals and added 31 assists for 48 points. That would’ve been good for sixth on the Rangers.
Vanek has always been a point producer. In his career, Vanek has 333 goals and 364 assists for 697 points in 885 career games. He was bought out by the Minnesota Wild due to a salary cap crunch after posting 39 goals and 54 assists over 154 games. Even his down years are impressive.
Vanek’s fit with the Rangers is somewhat unclear. He’s usually featured in the top six, where the Rangers are the best rounded out. However, his stats make it worth considering slotting him into the top six.
At left wing, the Rangers have three solid options already. J.T. Miller, although a natural center, has seen a majority of his time at left wing. Chris Kreider was featured as the left wing on the first line for most of the last season, while Jimmy Vesey was right behind him on the second line.
Vanek can slot into the second line easily. While the center is in question, a line of Thomas Vanek, Mika Zibanejad, and Rick Nash sounds incredibly explosive. Depending on who the Rangers sign at center, the line combinations could be different, but Nash passing to Vanek in the slot would be like bread and butter.
Aside from even strength line combinations, Vanek immediately slots into the power play. The Rangers power play was in the middle of the pack last season, but went silent during the playoffs. On the power play last season, Vanek has five goals and eight assists. He could slot in, and provide the spark the power play needs.
Vanek has become less expensive over the last few years of his career. Since signing a three year, $19.5 million contract with the Minnesota Wild in 2014, he was bought out in 2016. He then signed a one year, $2.6 million deal with the Detroit Red Wings. If $2.6 million is the price, the Rangers can definitely afford Vanek.
The length of the deal is a different story, however. Vanek, while still producing, is 33-years-old, and that spells trouble. His age hasn’t caught up to him yet, but there’s nothing to say it won’t. The Rangers would be wise to not offer Vanek more than two years.
With all things considered, Thomas Vanek should be a no brainer target this offseason. He’s cheap, adds depth, and can spark the power play. The Rangers should be seriously interested in Thomas Vanek.