Window Shopping: Thomas Vanek

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Sniper! Pew Pew! Pew Pew!

Well folks, we thought the top six was all set, but with financial questions surrounding Paul Stastny and Ryan O'Reilly the Avalanche could find themselves looking for a forward to complement their young, dynamic forwards.  Here's one that might fit the bill.

Thomas Vanek

#20 / Left Wing / Montreal Canadiens

6-0

217

2013 Cap Hit: $7,142,857

Age: 30


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT

2013 - Thomas Vanek

Playoffs

78

17

27

5

41

5

68

10

33

-4

46

4

8

3

0

0

4

0


248

28

10.8%

17.9%

Strengths:

This guy just scores goals.  Thomas Vanek is really as pure a goal scorer as you'll find in the modern NHL.  He has an excellent shot, he's among the league's best at redirecting pucks on net, and he's a good passer.  In short Vanek is all hands.  Thomas Vanek has scored 277 goals in 663 career games, and his 27 goals this season would have ranked second on the Avalanche behind Ryan O'Reilly.  Now we here in Avalanche country Peter McNabb has taught fans that there is a massive difference between a 20 goal scorer and a 30 goal scorer in the NHL.  While no current Avalanche player has scored 30 goals in one season, Thomas Vanek has done it four times in his nine NHL seasons, including two 40+ goal seasons in 2007 and 2009.  That's a lot of goals.  You might remember that Avs fans got a gooooood look at Vaneks scoring ability back in March, when the Habs forward beat the Avalanche for three goals.

Now granted, J.S. Gigure gave him that first one.... but this quick highlight video gives you an idea of Vanek's strengths.  He can, and will, score goals in every way that a player can legally score goals.  Quick one timer? Check.  Rebounds? Check.  Ability to tip pucks? Check.  The only thing we don't really see here is just how good his shot is.  It's an absolute wire.  He's got the size and strength to work well near the goal, and the offensive IQ to find scoring areas from the further out.  Plus he can do this. (Poor Capitals never stood a chance.)

Weaknesses:

Don't kid yourselves, Thomas Vanek is never going to be in the Selke conversation.  Although Vanek uses his size well in and around the goal crease, he isn't a physical player elsewhere on the ice.  Vanek isn't anything special when it comes to winning battles on the boards or in the corner, and his defensive game is very soft.  Vanek is also an average skater, which does him no favors when he is lost, or behind the play defensively.  As deep as Vanek's offensive toolkit is, his game is highly dependent on putting pucks in the net.  Just look at the massive ups and downs of public opinion during Vanek's time in Montreal: well loved when scoring, but quickly demoted and vilified by the media when the goal well ran dry.  When you sign Thomas Vanek you're paying for offense, and a lot of it, but that's really all you're getting.

Contract:

Whoooooooaaaaa Nelly.  Thomas Vanek hits free agency at the end of a 7-year contract worth 50 million dollars, thats an annual caphit of $7,142,857.  That's a lot of cash.  Vanek could be a tricky negotiation this off season for a number of reasons.  He is coming off of a very large contract with a high cap hit and he's coming off another impressive year in which he managed 27 goals and 68 points despite changing teams twice during the season.  Vanek is undeniably the top offensive dog of this UFA class and heading into the season many speculated that he could incite a serious July 1st bidding war.  That said, a disappointing playoffs with Montreal, and the emergence of Jason Spezza and Ryan Kesler as viable trade candidates may have soured the market on Vanek to a degree.  I expect he'll make something in the range of $7 to $7.25 million annually on his next deal.

Why It Works:

If Thomas Vanek walked into Avalanche training camp this September, he would step onto the ice with the most lethal shot the Avalanche have possessed since Joe Sakic.  He's a finisher through and through, and the Avalanche don't have a guy like that on their roster yet (though Nathan MacKInnon seems to trend that direction).  Vanek struggled to find chemistry in Montreal, but his line in Brooklyn with John Tavares and Kyle Okposo was deadly on the ice.  The Avalanche could conceivably recreate that success by lining Vanek up alongside Matt Duchene or Paul Stastny.  With premier passers like Stastny and Tanguay on the Avalanche's roster, you can bet the puck would find Vanek in dangerous scoring areas, a scenario which often ends with the puck in the back of the opposition's net.

My Take:

Vanek certainly fills a gap in the Avalanche's top six.  He brings a pure scorers touch that no other Avalanche forward has and he could flourish on a team with so much offensive talent and a system which encourages offensive creativity.  That said, Vanek's asking price is almost certainly too rich for the Avs' blood.  While the potential departure of one of Ryan O`Reilly or Paul Stastny could leave plenty of room under the cap for Thomas Vanek, some believe that the Avalanche may be unwilling to pay any one player more than Matt Duchene's $6M caphit. If I were running the show I wouldn't worry too much about Vanek's cap hit, but I would worry about what kind of term the team offered him.  Vanek is on the wrong side of a few thirties lately (he turns 31 in January and hasn't scored 30+ goals since 2011).  Vanek may be looking for a longterm deal, but locking the forward into anything more than a 4-5 year commitment could be trouble for a team like the Avalanche, who will need space to re-sign their young stars down the road. On a middle length contract Vanek could be worth the risks.  Long term? I don't think he's the right fit for Colorado.

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