“I’ve enjoyed my time in Buffalo and I’m looking forward to going back,” Vanek said.
On July 24, 2013, Thomas Vanek spot with KTSP in Minneapolis and said that he expected to be a member of the Buffalo Sabres when training camp opened in September.
Fast forward a few months to September, and sure enough, Vanek reported to Sabres camp as he had expected.
But now, a year after those initial comments… a lot’s changed.
Back in 2013, Vanek had spent his entire NHL career up to that point with the Buffalo Sabres organization. Whether in Rochester with the Amerks or in Buffalo with the Sabres, the then-29-year-old had played with the NHL club since 2005. He was wrapping up his eighth season with the Sabres, having put up 41 points (20-21) in 38 games. And even though there was a lot of speculation about an impending trade, Vanek remained confident that he’d be back in Buffalo.
And he was — but only for a while.
Since that fateful day a year ago, Vanek’s been moving around a lot.
It started on October 27, when the trade rumors became truth.
Vanek, one of the Sabres co-captains at the time, was sent to the New York Islanders in exchange for Matt Moulson, a 2014 1st round pick and a 2015 2nd round pick.
He had played just 13 games with the Sabres and had notched nine points in that stretch, and just like that, his time with the Sabres organization was over.
Vanek was productive on the Islanders, scoring 44 points in 47 games. But he was also an impending free agent and made it clear his intentions weren’t to sign with New York, turning down a seven-year contract extension worth $50 million.
Just like that, when March rolled around, Vanek was off to his third NHL team of the season. This time, he was headed north to play for the Montreal Canadiens.
Vanek was traded to Montreal along with a 2014 conditional 5th-rounder in exchange for Sebastian Collberg and a 2014 conditional 2nd-rounder.
He played in 18 games for the Habs and notched 15 points in the regular season with Montreal. He also had 10 points in 17 playoff games, but ultimately collapsed in the Habs’ series against the New York Rangers.
He blamed a lack of chemistry after he was taken off the Habs’ top line, and that left a sour taste in many people’s mouths, including Guy Lafleur‘s.
July 1st rolled around, and in a move that pretty much everyone saw coming, Vanek signed a three-year deal with the Minnesota Wild. He’ll return back to the state where he played college hockey, the state his wife is from and his “adopted hometown” in the fall when the 2014-2015 NHL season gets underway.
The past year has certainly seen a lot happen in the Vanek conundrum.
First, it was his reiterating his excitement to return to Buffalo despite numerous trade rumors; then one trade, another, and another, followed by a free agent signing with now the fourth team of his NHL career.
The Wild will become the fourth team that Vanek skates for in a year when he suits up for them in October. Pretty crazy for a guy who’d spent the last eight seasons with the Sabres organization and who many thought would never play elsewhere — and it just shows how much can happen in a year’s time.