One of the long free agent waits of the offseason is finally over; the Vancouver Canucks have signed Thomas Vanek to a one-year contract worth $2MM. The deal will come in at a lower amount than his $2.4MM pact with the Detroit Red Wings from last season, even after Vanek put up a solid 48-point season. He’ll hit the open market once again next summer.
[Related: Updated Canucks Depth Chart]
Teams who want a little extra offense and are close to the playoffs could have used Vanek’s powerplay and shootout prowess in a sheltered role, but another option was always a team like Vancouver signing him only to flip him for an asset at trade time. Like Detroit last season, the Canucks could give Vanek ample opportunities to rack up points in the first half of the season, only to send him to a bubble team for a draft pick come February. Vanek netted the Red Wings a third-round pick (and Dylan McIlrath) last year, more than enough return for a relatively small amount of money.
The Canucks are in rebuild mode after struggling again last season, but have brought in several high upside players that could be used in this manner already this summer. Sam Gagner, Michael Del Zotto and Alexander Burmistrov could each fetch a solid return on the market either this year or next should they show any improvement, and Vanek could be much of the same. As the team waits out Daniel and Henrik Sedin’s contracts and looks to build towards a future centered on Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser, Olli Juolevi and Elias Pettersson, signing tradeable assets can only accelerate the process.
Horvat’s extension now enters the spotlight, as the team will have somewhere around $7MM in cap space depending on which forwards they move off the roster before the season starts. They currently have 15 forwards on one-way contracts, not including Horvat or Boeser, who is expected to stay with the team all year. While there likely will be some injuries in training camp, it does look like Vancouver will have to make a move or try and sneak a few players through waivers.
Rick Dhaliwal of News 1130 first got confirmation that the Canucks were “in the mix” on Vanek.