Thomas Vanek never played for the Islanders at Barclays Center, having departed the team at the trade deadline in 2014 after turning down a seven-year, $50-million contract offer.
Vanek also turned down a three-year, $21-million deal the following July 1, choosing to sign with the Wild. Minnesota bought out the final season of that deal this past June, but the Islanders did not make a third try for the 32-year-old, who came to town with the Red Wings and again said the Isles’ move to Brooklyn was a big factor in his rejecting their big offers.
“When I was here a few years back, I’ve said it before, I would’ve stayed in a heartbeat if we’d have stayed on the Island,” Vanek told Newsday on Sunday. “It was a good team, a young team. They’re still a good team and they’ve struggled just like we’ve struggled. Every team loses guys. What I know is moving over here has turned some guys off.”
He said the Wings were one of the first teams to contact him this past summer and that Detroit’s addition of Frans Nielsen was a bonus.
“Detroit was the first team that called and it was about their plan for me, their plan for free agency, and once I saw Fransy was going there, it made it an easier choice,” he said.
Vanek got off to a hot start with the Wings, posting four goals and four assists in his first seven games. After missing nearly a month with a hip injury, he had only three points in seven games entering Sunday.
Nielsen feeling ‘weird’
Nielsen was welcomed back warmly by the Barclays Center crowd, which gave him a standing ovation during a video tribute in the first period. Nielsen said he got to the arena early and chatted with Johnny Boychuk on his way in.
“It’s all kind of weird right now,” Nielsen said before Sunday’s game. He picked up an assist on Mike Green’s first-period goal.