Battered, bruised and displeased. That's some of what Wild winger Thomas Vanek has been feeling as he departs Minnesota for the offseason.
Vanek, who did not live up to the expectations the Wild had for him this season, told reporters that he was dealing with broken and displaced ribs that caused his season to end prematurely.
He sustained the injury when he was checked in a game against the Blackhawks on March 29. He missed one game, then played in a game before sitting out the final three regular season games and all six postseason contests against Dallas.
"When it first happened, I figured something was wrong, but they just assumed it was a strain or bruise," Vanek said. "I played a couple days later and it didn't feel like a bruise or a strain. So I took four or five days off and went on the ice for about two minutes and I said I think something is wrong."
The injury will heal and when it does, Vanek sounds like he'll be motivated to get back out on the ice and work to return to the form the Wild hoped they were getting when they signed the former Gophers standout.
Across the board Vanek posted career lows this year, finishing with 18 goals, 23 assists and a total of 41 points. Despite his struggles he still believes he has what it takes to be a 30-goal scorer in the NHL. But will he have that chance in Minnesota?
Vanek is heading into the final year of a three-year, $19.5 million deal with the Wild. According to NBC Sports, it's possible the Wild will look to buy out the final year of his contract. But Vanek was clear with reporters during his exit day interviews: while he understands the business side of things, he wants to be in Minnesota.
"I hope so. I signed here not because this is where I live," Vanek told reporters Wednesday. "I signed here because I truly love it here and I want to win here. That would be a dream come true."
It remains to be seen what the Wild will do with Vanek, but the Star Tribune notes that as long as he is medically cleared by June 15 or 48 hours after the Stanley Cup Final a buyout would be possible.