In an interview with Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News, Red Wings forward Thomas Vanek acknowledged that Minnesota (where he spent the last two seasons) “just wasn’t a good fit”.
Vanek joined Detroit in July on a one year, $2.6MM deal after he was bought out by the Wild the month before. Last season with Minnesota, Vanek put up respectable second line numbers with 18 goals and 23 assists in 74 games. However, given that they were paying him $6.5MM last season (both salary and cap hit), the Wild were expecting much better bang for their buck in the form of top line production and opted to pay him $5MM over the next two years to not play for them.
Despite his tenure in Minnesota not ending on the best of terms, Vanek doesn’t regret signing with them two summers ago:
“It’s always easy to look back and I say I should have done this or that. I knew going into it that it wasn’t going to be easy but I didn’t care. I wanted the challenge. I wanted to see if it could work. It’s a place that’s close to my heart. The only championship I’ve ever was in my college days there and to win another one there would have been awesome. It just didn’t work out.”
Vanek is hopeful that a return to the Eastern Conference (where he spent the first nine years of his career with the Sabres, Islanders, and Canadiens) will help him. He is expected to battle for a middle six spot with the Red Wings so the pressure to perform like a top line player won’t be there now as it has been for most of his career.
[Related: Red Wings Depth Chart]
Also out of Detroit:
- Goaltender Jimmy Howard is “definitely not disappointed” to be back with the Red Wings this season, despite losing his starting job to Petr Mrazek, writes Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press. The team looked into trading him in the offseason but obviously weren’t able to find a suitable trade. One element that likely complicates matters is Howard’s contract, which has three years with a cap hit just shy of $5.3MM remaining. That’s a steep price tag for someone that has been relegated to a #2 role so instead, Howard will look push Mrazek for playing time to start the season.
- After spending the bulk of the last three seasons in the minors (going back and forth to the NHL and back 17 times over that span), defenseman Xavier Ouellet is heading into training camp with a firm grip on a roster spot, St. James wrote in a separate column. Detroit’s second round pick (48th overall) in 2011, Ouellet no longer has waiver exemption and would likely be claimed if they tried to send him down which gives him a sense of security he has yet to have since joining the team. However, with just 30 games of NHL experience (and just five last season), Ouellet will still have some work to do if he wants to become a regular in the lineup and not just a seventh blueliner.
- Defenseman Niklas Kronwall is aiming to be ready to start the regular season but isn’t sure how much action he’ll be able to get in the preseason, notes MLive’s Ansar Khan. Kronwall withdrew from the World Cup late last month citing lingering knee problems. He led all Detroit players in ice time per game in 2015-16, logging 22 minutes of action per night and will once again be counted on to play major minutes this season.