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Updated: March 3rd, 2014 5:12pm
Zulgad: Wild would be smart to pass on trading for Thomas Vanek now

Zulgad: Wild would be smart to pass on trading for Thomas Vanek now

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by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

There are two things that appear to be near certainties when it comes to Thomas Vanek's situation.

One, he will be dealt by the porous New York Islanders before the NHL trade deadline on Wednesday. Two, he will elect to sign with the Minnesota Wild as an unrestricted free agent this offseason, returning to the state where he played college hockey.

Put it together and it could be tempting to make a case that Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher should acquire Vanek now and have the left winger in place to help Minnesota make a playoff run.

Vanek, who has 17 goals and 27 assists in 47 games this season and 271 goals in 645 career games, would provide the Wild with another top six forward and bring a goal-scoring presence to the X.

While this might be welcomed in the short term, Vanek is among those who should have little interest in heading to the Wild right now.

That's because the Islanders are going to be looking for a big-time return for the 30-year-old. New York acquired Vanek from the Buffalo Sabres in October, hoping that it might be able to convince him to stay put and be a face of the franchise when it moves to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn in 2015-16.

Vanek, however, made his intentions clear in early February when he reportedly turned down an offer that was believed to be in a range similar to the $50 million, seven-year contract he will be finishing this season.

So what will Islanders general manager Garth Snow be looking for in return for Vanek? The answer is simple: Too much if you're Fletcher.

Last April the Wild acquired right winger Jason Pominville and a fourth-round draft pick in 2014 from the Sabres for prospects Johan Larsson and Matt Hackett, plus a first-round draft pick in 2013 and a second-round selection in 2014.

That put a dent in what was a pretty well-stocked farm system for the Wild, but the trade has turned out to be a good one. Pominville, who is currently on the Wild's top line, leads the team with 22 goals and 41 points in 61 games this season.

The Wild also made sure it kept Pominville for the long term by signing him to a five-year, $28 million contract extension in October. Pominville had entered training camp with only a season left on his deal.

Fletcher not only wanted Pominville's scoring punch to help the Wild get into the playoffs last season but he also knew that it would be much easier to lock him up long term if he was already on the roster.

Vanek isn't going to need to be in Minnesota to decide he wants to stay here. In addition to having played for the Gophers, the native of Vienna, Austria, spends the offseason in the Twin Cities and his wife, Ashley, is a Minnesota native.

Add it all up and common sense says that if the Wild wants Vanek, it likely won't have a huge problem getting him unless another team makes a ridiculous offer in free agency. The Wild should have financial room to work with, considering the NHL salary cap is expected to rise from $64.3 million this season to just over $70 million in 2014-15.

Any team that gets Vanek by Wednesday will know it is getting nothing more than a rental.

So why wouldn't the Wild want to get Vanek now to help in the postseason?

While that would be nice, does it make sense to give up another top prospect or prospects and draft picks when said player could be acquired for nothing in few months? It's likely that almost anyone the Islanders want in return for Vanek will be classified as untouchable by Fletcher.

There is nothing wrong with Fletcher taking this approach.

The Wild entered their game Monday against Calgary with 73 points, making Minnesota the top wild-card seed in the Western Conference. This means the Wild's first-round playoff matchup is going to be a tough one and mortgaging another part of the future for a short-term goal that might not be achieved doesn't seem all that wise.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
In this story: Jason Pominville
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