It appears as though Thomas Vanek could be nearing a decision on his future in the National Hockey League.
The former Buffalo Sabres winger has been an unrestricted free agent this season and needed to get a deal done by 3 p.m. on Monday in order to be eligible to play in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. With no contract signed by Monday's deadline, his days of playing in the NHL are likely over.
"If I don't go anywhere today, then yes, I'm done. I'm okay with that," Vanek said with Andrew Peters and Craig Rivet on The Instigators on Monday. "I'm happy with what I've accomplished and whatever, and it's been such a fun year being home and coaching my boys. I'm happy to be a dad at home. That's been awesome, so no, I wouldn't train and try to come back next year."
The 36-year-old winger has not appeared in an NHL game since March 23, 2019 while in his second stint with the Detroit Red Wings. Last season, Vanek played in 64 games with the Red Wings, scoring 16 goals and registering 20 assists for 36 points.
While Vanek's interest in returning to the NHL seems to still be an option, he says it would have to be the right team that would potentially contend for a Stanley Cup.
"If the right deal comes along, and it definitely has to be the right situation, that's something I'll have to seriously consider.," Vanek said. I feel good, I've stayed in shape all year for something like this in case it comes up."
Vanek began his 14-year NHL career with the Sabres as the team's first round pick (fifth overall) in the 2003 NHL Draft. He made his NHL debut in the 2005-06 season, playing in 81 games while scoring 25 goals and amassing 23 assists for 48 points.
In parts of nine seasons with the Sabres, Vanek ranks fifth in franchise history with 254 goals, 11th in franchise history with 498 points, and 16th with 598 games played.
Over the course of his career with the Sabres, New York Islanders, Montreal Canadiens, Minnesota Wild, Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Columbus Blue Jackets and Vancouver Canucks, Vanek has scored 373 goals and registered 416 assists for 789 points in 1,029 games.
While speaking with The Instigators, Vanek made it clear to start the season that he did not want to play right away, but was open to the idea of joining a team later in the season. However, other family obligations have been a main reason for the push back of any return to the NHL.
"Obviously I did not want to sign at the start of the regular season because I wasn't 100% committed," Vanek said. "Then a few things came up around Thanksgiving and I still couldn't get myself to sign [a deal]. Some things came up around Christmas and I still... I'm enjoying the coaching part with my kids so much that I couldn't get myself to leave. I still don't know if I will be able to do that, but there are certain teams that have a chance, I think, to win the Cup, and if one of them calls, then selfishly I'll have to look at that very hard."
If Vanek decides to officially retire now that he cannot compete for a Stanley Cup this offseason, it does not mean that he wants to be done with the NHL entirely. He says that he wants to stay involved in the league, which could mean a possible future in a front office position.
"As far as what I want to do, I wanted to take this year off and see what happens, but I do want to go back into the game and eventually be a [general manager]," Vanek explained. "I think that's the one thing I've learned so much of being with different teams in the last six-to-seven years of my career of what really, in my eyes, works, what doesn't work because you've seen it all. Some organizations are great, some are okay, some have a lot to learn. I think over the last six-to-seven years I have wrote a lot of notes of what do the guys really like, because at the end of the day, that's what matters. You have to have 23 players that not just enjoy where they're at, but love where they're at and play and compete for each other. I want to stay in the game and some day be a GM, and do some of those things that I've learned over my career."
You can listen to the entire interview below: