Thomas Vanek in a Minnesota Wild sweater? It's certainly possible because it appears the former Golden Gopher is available.
The 30-year-old star forward of the New York Islanders turned down a significant contract offer to say with the Isles, according to multiple reports. The offer was believed to be in the same ballpark as his current contract (seven years, $50 million), which expires on June 30.
Steve Bartlett, Vanek's agent, told ESPNNewYork.com that Vanek is "strongly leaning toward not making a decision before July 1." That's the day impending NHL free agents can hit the open market and start fielding offers from other teams.
Whether Vanek hits unrestricted free-agency could be determined by the possibility of him being traded before the March 5 deadline, which the Islanders are now open to doing.
Michael Russo of the Star Tribune doesn't believe the Wild will trade for Vanek. He breaks it down like this:
Again, my guess has always been the Wild waits until free agency to pursue Vanek. The price for him as a rental will be huge, so why give up a boatload of assets for Vanek when you can sign him as a free agent? Again, the Wild, if it makes the playoffs, is all but locked to get a wildcard spot (Wild's unlikely to catch St. Louis, Chicago or Colorado), meaning it's all but locked to play St. Louis or Anaheim in the first round. Would you want the Wild to trade a first-round pick and a prospect or two for Vanek when your fate is a first round with those teams and he almost certainly will be available four months from now anyway?
Vanek helped the Gophers win the National Championship in 2003. He scored game-winning goals in Minnesota's semifinal game against Michigan and the championship game against New Hampshire.