Jason Pominville’s return to Buffalo with the Minnesota Wild is increasing speculation former teammate Thomas Vanek could one day join him in Minnesota.

Will Thomas Vanek sign with the Wild next summer?

Will Thomas Vanek sign with the Wild next summer?

THE BUFFALO NEWS/TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild face the Sabres in Buffalo tonight, marking the first time Wild forward Jason Pominville has faced his former team since he was dealt by the Sabres to Minnesota at last season’s trade deadline. It’s also heightening speculation over the future of Sabres forward Thomas Vanek, who is due to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

It’s believed Vanek, who has personal ties to Minnesota,  could join his friend Pominville next summer by signing with the Wild. Pominville joked about how often he’s asked daily about Vanek.  The Wild aren’t expected to re-sign Dany Heatley, which would free up cap space to sign Vanek next summer.

STARTRIBUNE.COM: Mike Heika reports Pominville can’t guarantee Vanek will sign with the Wild next summer. Vanek, meanwhile, said he’s not thinking about free agency and hasn’t rule out re-signing with the Sabres, preferring to see how things work out this season with the club’s rebuilding process. He also claimed he and his family love living near Buffalo.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pominville can’t comment about Vanek’s future because it would risk charges of tampering.  The Wild could afford to sign Vanek, especially if he were willing to accept a slight pay cut for a seven-year term, and if (as expected) the salary cap significantly increases for next season.

Still, they have over $51 million invested in 17 players, with over $30 million tied up in Pominville, Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Mikko Koivu and Niklas Backstrom. Signing Vanek would be an expensive venture.

Anticipation of Vanek signing with the Wild could also adversely affect his trade value if the Sabres decide to shop him later this season, as teams won’t be keen to part with much to land a scorer who could depart via free agency next summer.