The 2018 NHL free agency period opens next Sunday, July 1st. The Sabres don’t appear to be in the hunt for John Tavares or the other big fishes occupying the pond, however they will certainly be looking to some cheaper options to improve the team.
Thomas Vanek is one of those players who should garner interest from a club that finished at the bottom of the league standings in goals for.
Vanek has become a bit of a journeyman since the 2015-16 season after he departed Minnesota and signed with Detroit. The Austrian winger has also found himself a trade-bait constant on deadline day. The Red Wings dealt Vanek to Florida at the 2016-17 deadline only to not extend his contract for the next season. He would join the Vancouver Canucks last offseason only to be traded once more at the trade deadline to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Vanek is poised now to join his fifth team in three seasons, and Buffalo may just be the place for the 34-year old winger to ease into a new role in his career.
Vanek’s stats since leaving the Wild are impressive. He is a player long past the point of being a top six threat, however Vanek is still able to score and has proved it the past two seasons.
From 2016 to 2018 Vanek scored 41 goals and added 63 assists for 104 points in 148 games. His 56 points in 2018 was his best offensive season since 2014, his last as a Sabre.
Vanek appeared in 80 games this season, scoring 17 goals in 61 games with Vancouver and 7 goals in 19 games with the Blue Jackets. Buffalo had only 4 players score more than 20 goals this season and all of them had seen top line minutes. Those players were Eichel, O’Reilly, Reinhart and Kane. His services will also come to the Sabres cheap, as Vanek’s last two contracts have seen him make $2.6 million and $2 million respectively on one year deals.
Inserting a player like Vanek into a spot that previously would’ve belonged to a player like Jordan Nolan or Seth Griffith would see an immense production increase in the goals for column.
The argument of course can be made that it didn’t work bringing back Jason Pominville, but the fact of the matter is Vanek has been and remains a more productive player. Sabres fans shouldn’t worry about disappointing numbers from Vanek.
The Sabres are going to see plenty of youth jump into the lineup next season. Casey Mittelstadt will need a winger who can finish, and one who is also a veteran that has seen success in the league before.
Along with Mittelstadt, the Sabres may also see the full time addition of Alexander Nylander to the roster. Nylander, a winger, will need a player opposite his side of the ice to feed the puck to or be fed the puck from. Vanek is one of few affordable, veteran FAs who can provide these tools for Buffalo’s kids.
Last season showed that the Sabres roster badly needs more NHL caliber players. Vanek has played in and excelled at the highest level of competition for 12 seasons. Nostalgia aside, he is just what the Sabres are looking for when it comes to improving the roster.
For more coverage of the Sabres roster moves this offseason, follow @TheChargingBUF on Twitter. For more thoughts on players the Sabres should target after July 1st, follow me on Twitter @LvkeTCB. Keep an eye on this site and our social media platforms for more offseason analysis.
All statistics provided by hockey-reference.com