The Detroit Red Wings have traded veteran forward Thomas Vanek to the Florida Panthers in exchange for a third-round draft pick and defenseman Dylan McIlrath, Bob McKenzie announced Wednesday. The Red Wings are also retaining 50 percent of Vanek’s cap hit. Vanek’s name was floating around in trade speculation given his pending unrestricted free agent status, his affordable cap hit, as well as the Red Wings position at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.
FLA gives up Dylan McIlrath and a third round pick to DET for Thomas Vanek. DET retains 50 per cent of salary.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) March 1, 2017
Vanek has played in 48 games this season and has had a strong year with 15 goals and 38 points and a plus-2 rating. He’s done a good job at boosting his value this season, giving the Red Wings another trade chip at the deadline to acquire assets for the future. Vanek can play in a depth scoring role but is also more than capable of playing a top-six role for a playoff run. In 63 career playoff games, Vanek has scored 20 goals and 34 points. His appearances in the postseason have been inconsistent at best, but that 33-year-old still has the ability to contribute whenever called upon.
In 865 career games, Vanek has scored 331 goals and 687 points. His best seasons came with the Buffalo Sabres between 2005 and 2012 when he scored at least 25 goals in seven seasons. His rookie season in the league saw him produce 25 goals and 48 points in 81 games, and his sophomore season remains his best season to date with 43 goals and 84 points in 82 games. He has shown throughout his career that he can play in the prototypical scoring forward mold and his size at 6 foot 2 and 218 pounds has allowed him to remain durable for much of his career.
Rollercoaster Season for the Panthers
The Panthers are a young team that had high aspirations going into the 2016-17 season. After a slow start out the gate, the Panthers made an effort to re-tool their team by firing then-head coach Gerard Gallant and filling his role with general manager Tom Rowe. The move caused ripples throughout the hockey world and was met with criticism at the time, and following the Panthers’ continued downfall in the standings.
The team returned to a playoff-hopeful team with the return of both center Aleksander Barkov and winger Jonathan Huberdeau. With Vanek on the team, the Panthers have filled out some much-needed depth and have added experience to a group that already boasts Jaromir Jagr, Keith Yandle, Derek MacKenzie, Shawn Thornton and Jussi Jokinen. Vanek will provide help on the Panthers power play as well and will allow them to make a legitimate push in a very crowded Atlantic Division.
At the time of the trade, the Panthers hold the fifth place in the Atlantic but sit just one point out of a playoff spot, and four games out of third place in the Atlantic with one game-in-hand on the Boston Bruins. With the cost being just a third for Vanek, it was a no-brainer for the Panthers to make a move to acquire the Austrian-born winger as they look for the first Stanley Cup victory in the history of the franchise.
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