Over the course of the 2013-14 NHL season, it seemed as though Thomas Vanek signing with the Minnesota Wild as a free agent this summer was a foregone conclusion.
Several factors may have rained on that particular parade, not the least of which being the 30-year-old's playoff performance with the Montreal Canadiens juxtaposed with the Wild's own postseason success.
As per Michael Russo of the Star Tribune:
Thomas Vanek is no longer a given ... the bright future that many of the kids provide the Wild coupled with Vanek’s tough postseason with Montreal has changed things.
The Wild has a lot of players 28 and older, a lot of players 24 and younger. You don’t want to get too many players north of 30 on long-term deals, so there’s a specific price point I think the Wild’s willing to reach with Vanek ... (He) will have good options in free agency, so is he really going to sign in Minnesota for two or three years? Hard to believe, especially after reportedly turning down a seven-year, $49 million deal with the Islanders. While that contract probably won’t be on the table with any team anymore, he certainly should still be able to get decent term of four or five years with some teams.
Vanek scored five goals and added five assists in Montreal's run to the Eastern Conference Final, while the Wild pushed the Chicago Blackhawks to six games in the second round while receiving significant contributions from young players such as Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Erik Haula and Nino Niederreiter.
The Wild is set to be free from Dany Heatley's $7.5-million cap hit once free agency begins, and his lack of production in the final years of his long-term, big ticket deal may serve as a first-hand cautionary tale as Minnesota considers whether to make a pitch for Vanek's services.