The money's nice, but Vanek's about the ice

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 23, 2007 - 11:50 PM

With a $50 million contract, the Sabres left winger says his goals are the same.

Nothing has changed, Thomas Vanek insisted.

OK, not even Vanek truly believes this. Just about everything his changed -- both his family and his finances. This summer, his ship came in and his son came home. About the only thing that hasn't changed is where he plays hockey, which is in Buffalo.

But here was the point that Vanek was making, probably for the 10 millionth time since he became the NHL's $10 million man: Nothing has changed as far as his commitment on the ice.

"Money isn't going to change me," Vanek said by phone over the weekend. He had just finished practice with the Sabres, who play the Wild tonight in a preseason game at Grand Forks, N.D. "Just because you've got money doesn't mean it's going to solve everything. It's a nice contract. But I have the same goals, the same purpose in life. I still look at everything the same way."

The contract, of course, is already legendary. After Vanek's breakthrough second season, the Edmonton Oilers tried to wrest the restricted free agent away from the Sabres. Make that tried very hard. Oilers General Manager Kevin Lowe threw a seven-year, $50 million offer sheet at Vanek. After a couple of deep breaths, the Sabres matched that offer July 6, but not before throwing a few verbal body checks Lowe's way.

Just like that, Vanek -- whose path from Graz, Austria, to NHL stardom included a two-year hitch with the Gophers -- went from making $942,400 last season to getting $10 million this season: $5 million in bonus money, $5 million in salary.

But ask Vanek about the summer's big event and he will move ahead to Aug. 16, when his girlfriend, Ashley Karner, gave birth to their first child, Blake Thomas.

"If my life has changed, it's because of the baby," said Vanek, who lives in Minneapolis during the offseason. "A little boy, that's the biggest change."

Could be that having a child at home will make Vanek try even harder at the rink.

A scary thought.

Trimmed down and toned up

The 6-2 Vanek brought his hard-skating, puck-controlling game to the Sabres and totaled 48 points as a rookie in 2005-06. Very good numbers. But Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff wasn't satisfied. Indeed, during the playoffs that season, Vanek found himself in the press box.

Last year? Trimmed down and toned up, Vanek was a wonder of two-way hockey. He went from a minus-11 as a rookie to a league-leading plus-47 last season. His 43 goals were the most by a Sabres player since 1992-93. Only Dany Heatley and Alexander Ovechkin had more goals among NHL left wingers.

Of Vanek's 84 points, 60 came at even strength or shorthanded, tied with Joe Thornton for most in the league. That is a multimillion-dollar résumé.

"He really got himself in tremendous shape and he came to camp in better shape than he had ever been in," Ruff said. "He was lighter; he had better endurance. He was able to do things at a higher pace. There was too much downtime in his game that first year."

A team in transition

But what now? The Sabres are a team in transition, too. They lost some key free agents in Daniel Briere (Philadelphia), Chris Drury (New York Rangers) and Dainius Zubrus (New Jersey).

A lot of responsibility -- not to mention expectation -- will likely be placed on Vanek's shoulders.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Los Angeles - LP: C. Frias 2 FINAL
Colorado - WP: J. De La Rosa 16
San Francisco - WP: S. Romo 4 FINAL
Arizona - LP: A. Reed 2
Boston - LP: C. Buchholz 1 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: F. Liriano 9
Toronto - LP: J. Happ 1 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: B. Norris 6
Washington - LP: R. Detwiler 1 FINAL
Atlanta - WP: A. Wood 3
Miami - WP: H. Alvarez 4 FINAL
NY Mets - LP: D. Gee 3
NY Yankees - WP: B. McCarthy 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: A. Cobb 2
Cincinnati - LP: D. Corcino 1 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: K. Hendricks 3
Chicago WSox - LP: C. Sale 2 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: Y. Ventura 6
Cleveland - WP: C. Carrasco 2 FINAL
Houston - LP: B. Oberholtzer 0
Detroit - LP: D. Price 4 FINAL
Minnesota - WP: K. Gibson 8
Milwaukee - LP: M. Fiers 0 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: A. Wainwright 2
Seattle - LP: J. Paxton 0 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: C. Wilson 5
Texas - WP: R. Ross Jr. 6 FINAL
Oakland - LP: S. Doolittle 1
Philadelphia - WP: C. Hamels 5 FINAL
San Diego - LP: E. Stults 2
Tampa Bay 7:25 PM
Atlanta
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
(5) Auburn 6:30 PM
(20) Kansas State
Connecticut 9/19/14 7:00 PM
So Florida
Old Dominion 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 9/20/14 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 9/20/14 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 9/20/14 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 9/20/14 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 9/20/14 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 9/20/14 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 9/20/14 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 9/20/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 9/20/14 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 9/20/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9/20/14 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Toronto 9/19/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Edmonton 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Winnipeg
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which local pro team are you most excited about?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close