Given the escalation in salaries over the past couple seasons, maybe Lindy Ruff should set his sights a little higher for Thomas Vanek.
"I need Thomas to play like he's a $900,000 player because it seemed to do pretty good last year," Ruff said with a laugh after this morning's practice in HSBC Arena. "That's my analogy. Just because you're making more money doesn't mean you have to change as a player. My expectations of him don't change."
Of course, Ruff was making a point with his $900,000 reference. That's about how much Vanek earned last season when he led the Sabres with 43 goals and topped the NHL with a plus-47 rating.
But over the summer the Oilers signed Vanek to an offer sheet worth $50 million over seven years, with $10 million of that due to him this season.
In the meantime, Nathan Paetsch signed a contract that averages out to $850,000 over three seasons. Paetsch was projected as the team's seventh defenseman at the time that deal was struck.
Surely, Ruff won't be happy if Vanek posts Paetsch-like stats.
"If he can be consistent with last year, that would be a darn good year for Thomas," Ruff said. "Is it realistic to think he can go from 25 [goals] to 44 to 70-something? I don't think so. But if we can keep him in that consistent area and have him be that 40- to 50-goal scorer, that would be pretty good."