Updated: 07/01/2014 2:52 PM
Created: 07/01/2014 1:02 PM KSTP.com
By: Megan Stewart
The Minnesota Wild have signed top free agent Thomas Vanek.
The team came to terms with the former University of Minnesota player on a three-year $19.5 million contract, Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher announced Tuesday afternoon.
“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.”
Vanek is the NHL's eighth leading goal scorer since 2005-06. The 30-year-old, along with Paul Stastny and Jerome Iginla, were considered the top unrestricted free agent forwards.
Vanek, a left wing from Vienna, Austia, played for three different teams last season, first from the Buffalo Sabres to the New York Islanders for Matt Moulson. The Wild acquired Moulson on Trade Deadline Day. He was moved again to the Montreal Canadiens.
Vanek led the Minnesota Gophers in goals (31), assists (31) and points (62) in the 2002-03 season. The team won the 2003 NCAA National Championship that year.
He was drafted fifth overall by the Sabres in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. He has spent the majority of his career with the Sabres. When his entry-level contract expired, he signed with the Edmonton Oilers.
Vanek will wear the number 26 for the Wild beside former Sabres linemate Jason Pominville.
Watch KSTP's web extra interview with 1500 ESPN's Judd Zulgad as he discusses Vanek's return to the State of Hockey.