The Boston Bruins have moved through the offseason relatively quietly, with only a handful of moves made. The front office seems to be content with these results, as the team has opened up their development camp and appear to be ready to “promote from within”. While the Bruins continue this passive strategy, there are still a few big names on the free agent market. One particularly interesting name is Thomas Vanek. So one question remains, should the Bruins take a chance on Thomas Vanek?
Thomas Vanek has 12 years of NHL experience, playing for the Buffalo Sabres, New York Islanders, Montreal Canadiens, Minnesota Wild, Detroit Red wings, and Florida Panthers. Over the course of his career, Vanek has scored 333 goals and 697 points, which gives him a career average of .787 points per game. Vanek had a career high 43 goals in the 2006-2007 season and has scored 20+ goals ten times in his career. While he has regressed from his peak performance, Vanek still has plenty to offer to the Bruins.
Vanek has always been an excellent goal scorer, with great size that enables him to be a tremendous net front presence. On power plays, Vanek works well in the middle of the ice as a puck distributor and with redirecting shots from the blue line. On even strength play, Vanek has an accurate shot and can be a useful playmaker to set teammates up with scoring opportunities. Last season, Vanek was able to put up 48 points combined for the Red Wings and Panthers, which would have been good for sixth on the Bruins.
There are, however, a few knocks on Vanek’s game that the Bruins may need to be wary of when evaluating his fit with the team. For starters, his performance has clearly showed a regression over the last couple of seasons. After putting up 68 points in the 2013-2014 season, Vanek has only cracked 50 points in a season once since. Additionally, after ten straight seasons of scoring 20 or more goals, Vanek has been unable to get above 20 in the past two seasons. Also, as he has gotten older, Vanek’s skating ability has deteriorated and he has been accused of “taking shifts off” at times. This could be a big reason as to why he has bounced around six different teams in the last four seasons.
But with the Bruins lack of scoring punch and necessity for veteran experience, it may be wise for them to take a chance on Vanek. Ideally, the Bruins could pair Vanek up on the first line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. Bergeron is coming off another Frank J. Selke award winning season and Marchand is coming off a career high in goals, assists, and points. With the talent of both on the offensive end, Vanek could slide in and potentially return to the 20-goal scorer form he has shown in the past. If the Bruins are looking to add to the scoring punch, Vanek may be a low-risk, high-reward option that can provide some much needed offense.