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Wild Lure Vanek “Home”

Former Gopher standout inks discounted deal with Minnesota.

Dec 29, 2013; Saint Paul, MN, USA; New York Islanders forward Thomas Vanek (26) against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. The Islanders defeated the Wild 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Former Gopher standout inks discounted deal with Minnesota to return to State of Hockey.

The Minnesota Wild announced today it has signed much-coveted left wing Thomas Vanek to a three-year contract reportedly worth $6.5 million annually. The deal puts to rest more than a year of speculation regarding what was believed to be Vanek’s imminent arrival in Minnesota when his contract expired.

“Thomas is an elite offensive talent who showed a strong desire to play in Minnesota,” Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher said in a statement released by the team. “We are excited to welcome him to our organization.”

A Vienna, Austria native, Vanek has scored 277 goals in nine NHL seasons—good for eighth in the league since 2005-06—and added 279 assists since his selection by the Buffalo Sabres in the first round (No. 5 overall) in the 2003 NHL Draft. Despite bouncing from Buffalo to Long Island to Montreal in 2013-14 courtesy of a pair of in-season trades, Vanek still managed to notch 68 points (27-41—68) in 78 games.

A Stillwater resident, Vanek has made Minnesota his offseason home since he left the University of Minnesota where he led the Gophers to a national title in 2003 and was named Frozen Four MVP. Vanek played 83 games in his two seasons (2002-04) as a Golden Gopher, tallying 113 points (57-56–113).

Vanek said the decision came down to a choice between Minnesota and a return to the Islanders who offered him a reported seven-year deal worth $50 million during his brief stint with the team. But the 6-foot-2, 217-pound wing, with the right hand shot the Wild had been seeking, turned it down in order to test the market and see what the team in his adopted hometown had to offer.

An accomplished pro, Vanel earned NHL Second All-Star Team honors in 2006-07 and was named an NHL All-Star in 2009. He spent the majority of his career with Buffalo (2005-14), ranking fourth in Sabres history in power-play goals scored (106) and game-winning goals (41), fifth in goals (254), 10th in points (497) and 15th in games played (598).

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