Islanders enforcer Zenon Konopka was quick to become a fan favorite. He was a gritty, passionate player on the ice and a dynamic--albeit quirky--personality off the ice.
But, after spending a year on Long Island trading blows with opponents and taking on a leadership role with his own teammates, the 30-year-old tough guy is prepared to move on from the Islanders.
With no deal in place or recent discussions to remain with the organization, Konopka will become an unrestricted free agent tomorrow July 1.
"It's one of those things that, if I was younger, maybe I'd scratch my head and be bitter, but you just learn to be grateful for the time spent there and the experience you had."
"I had a tremendous year as far as our team coming together and reconnecting with the fans and the community," Konopka said when reached by phone recently. "Whenever you have a year like that--to put that much time into the organization and city--it's tough to move on."
Konopka said he wasn't given a firm reason as to why the Islanders were not interested in bringing him back.
"At the end of the day, there are always reasons," he said. "Sometimes you don't figure out all the reasons, but it doesn't change much."
Konopka will instead move forward and approach Friday's free agency period with a bright outlook. The fourth-line brawler and faceoff specialist garnered interest from more than a few teams at the trade deadline and hopes to attract that same type of attention Friday afternoon.
"Going into July 1, you definitely have some of that excitement, moreso than nervous-ness," Konopka said.
Even with free agency right around the corner, Konopka would not completely shut the door on the possibility of landing back with the Islanders.
'Who knows what will happen? Nothing's set in stone. I'm a guy that just likes to enjoy the experience."