There's a bit of what seems like a perfect storm brewing involving Thomas Vanek and The Minnesota Wild (hell, start typing "Thomas Vanek" into google and "Thomas Vanek Minnesota Wild" is the third choice in the auto-fill.) Once Jason Pominville was acquired from Buffalo at the trade deadline, the implication was that Minnesota, who will clear a healthy chunk of cap space after the 2013-14 season, would be positioning themselves to be a suitor for Vanek, who is now entering the last year of his contract.
Pominville, so they say, is one of Vanek's close friends. Buffalo is in the midst of a complete rebuild. Vanek also lives here, and married a Minnesota girl; he is, after all, a former Golden Gopher. He runs camps here in the Summers. So once you do the math, it makes sense.
My question is...why?
Now, I'm not saying we don't need him; he is a proven NHL scorer and historically Minnesota has lacked in that department. He's touched 40 goals twice (and was on pace for that this last season), averages roughly 3-4 shots on goal per game (Buffalo, which was awful, was still almost 5 shots better when Vanek was on the ice, playing tough minutes), and has been pretty durable over the course of his career. He'll be 30 in January, so he's nearing the end of his prime; but he will still remain a viable scoring option as long as he can stay healthy.
There will inevitably be an extension for Jason Pominville as you just don't give up that many assets for an 18 month rental; so when he gets locked up, we are looking at Pominville, Mikko Koivu, and Zach Parise as long-term (I use this term because of their contract status) pieces of the Top-6 puzzle. Vanek would be a fourth, and for a nominal fee- so wouldn't the addition of Vanek fly right into the face of the build-within, cheap in-house competition philosophy that this regime has adopted?
Granted there will still be in-house competition- Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker, Mikael Granlund, and Nino Neiderreiter all have NHL experience- but won't this team essentially become hamstrung with one-way contracts and guaranteed money when there would be cheaper options available roughly 250 miles south of St. Paul? For me it comes down to where Chuck Fletcher has stumbled often, making a rash move in the name of instant improvement- but would a signing like this, with the years and monetary figure attached, make sense when you're looking at a player who is on the decline?
There are ways to do both; Peter Chiarelli in Boston is making a cottage industry of trading young players in their pre-prime years for serious bounties, so there's no reason why a guy like Granlund or Coyle couldn't be had for the right price. But I worry about keeping the team young at the right spots; Koivu, Parise, Pominvile, and Vanek won't be getting any younger and presumably not producing like they once were. So wouldn't we want to keep an influx of youth at some of those spots in order to keep a decent amount of turnover and cost efficiency?
I see the lure of signing Thomas Vanek come next Summer; but it may not be something you do just for the sake of doing it.