By: Aj Mansour | KFAN.com
St. Paul, MN - The Minnesota Wild had a busy first day of free agency, but their sights were set on one particular target. But they weren't alone. At the end of the day it came down to two teams, the New York Islanders and the Minnesota Wild, with both teams sweating the situation a little.
So when it was announced that the team had successfully signed LW Thomas Vanek to a 3-year $19.5million deal, it appeared as if the team got quite the bargain. However, after chatting with Thomas Tuesday afternoon, it looks like as long as the price was right, and it was, Chuck Fletcher and the Wild didn't have to do a ton of work to convince him to come to Minnesota.
"I didn't need much of a sales pitch," Thomas said frankly. "[Minnesota] was definitely high on my list. This is a place where I’ve spent a lot of time the last ten years you know."
Vanek, originally from Austria, won a National Championship with the Minnesota Gophers in 2003 and has made a summer home in Minnesota ever since.
"The best thing in my career so far was to win an NCAA championship with the Gophers. So to be a part of the Wild now and go after the big prize and having a chance to do it here in Minnesota is beyond my wildest dreams."
In addition to his familiarity with the area, Vanek explained that a big part of his desire to wear the Minnesota Wild sweater had to do with the team that general manager Chuck Fletcher has been piecing together. And maybe more importantly, how that team is beginning to develop on the ice.
"[This] is what I was looking for," Vanek explained. "What intrigued it the most for me, obviously with Zach [Parise] signing here and [Ryan] Suter signing here, I think this team was getting very good and is very good. About a year ago when I made my decision to go to free agency this was definitely a team that I had in mind."
"I wanted to join an organization where I had a chance to win. That’s why I was able to sign for three years and not worry about going higher. I have a lot of belief in myself that I can play at this level for another 7 or 8 years. An organization that’s willing to trade for guys, sign guys, they want to win and that’s important to me."
So, no matter how difficult it was or maybe was not to land Vanek, it appears as if he is in a good situation. Now the biggest question for the Wild immediately shifts to speculation of line combinations. Will Vanek be placed on the top line opposite of Zach Parise? Will he be centered by our young phenom Mikael Granlund?
Have fun Mike Yeo, you've been given some fun, shiny toys to play with next year!
Aj Mansour covers Minnesota Sports for KFAN.com. Feel free to leave comments and questions regarding this post in the space provided below. For Wild updates and breaking Wild news, follow Aj on Twitter. @AjKFAN