(Photo: Duane Burleson/CP)

Free Agent Frenzy 2014 is here, and with it comes big trades and contract deals throughout the NHL.

Earlier today, Minnesota Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher announced that the Wild have agreed to a three-year, $19.5 million contract with LW Thomas Vanek.

“Thomas is an elite offensive talent who showed a strong desire to play in Minnesota,” said Fletcher.  “We are excited to welcome him to our organization.”

“[The Wild] have a great team, I believe…to join that, it doesn’t get much better for me right now,” Vanek told Sportsnet this afternoon.  “It’s a team that’s very deep, and I know I can add to that.”

Vanek, 30, is no stranger to “The State of Hockey.”  He played two seasons with the University of Minnesota, where he had 113 points in 83 games and helped the Golden Gophers win the 2003 NCAA title; Vanek was named the 2003 NCAA Championship Tournament MVP.  He also lives in Minnesota during the NHL offseason with his family.

Vanek spent the majority of his career with the Buffalo Sabres (2005-14), who selected him fifth overall in the 2003 NHL draft–the highest pick ever for an Austrian-born player.  He made history with the Sabres organization by ranking fourth all-time in power play goals (106) and game-winning goals (41), as well as fifth in goals (254), tenth in points (497), and fifteenth in games played (598).  He was also named to the NHL Second All-Star Team in 2006-07 and received NHL All-Star accolades in 2009.

The Sabres traded Vanek to the New York Islanders in October 2013, and he then spent the latter half of the 2013-14 season with the Montreal Canadiens after the Islanders traded him in March.  He registered 68 points in 78 games this past season (27 goals and 41 assists) and contributed an additional 10 points (5 goals and 5 assists) during Montreal’s 17-game postseason run.

Vanek ranks eighth overall in the NHL for goals scored (277) and third in power play goals (113).  He has a career 556 points since joining the NHL in 2005-06 and boasts a +41 rating in 663 regular season games.  Vanek also has 30 points in 53 playoff games.

Stephanie is currently a student at Roger Williams University and is working toward a BFA in Creative Writing and Film. She is hoping to pursue a master's degree in Sports Journalism after graduating. Stephanie is a former basketball player and now enjoys writing from the sidelines (though she wouldn't be opposed to watching from a press box). She quite literally turned into a full-fledged hockey fan overnight, and she is the lone Rangers/Blackhawks fan in a family of hardcore Bruins fans. During the offseason, she enjoys writing, film, traveling, and theatre. Twitter: @stephanielynn_

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