Thomas Vanek’s journey through the NHL has landed him with the Blue Jackets, who just happen to lead the Islanders by four points for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference. The 34-year-old former Islander could have an impact on squashing the Islanders’ playoff chances.
Vanek had 17 goals and 24 assists for the Canucks. He has 738 career points. The Blue Jackets need more scoring punch. “Certainly Thomas, you know, we had him here, can do that,’’ Doug Weight said on Tuesday. “That’s probably the thinking behind it . . . I’m worried about our team, but that’s how I read it.’’
Vanek, with his eighth NHL team, made the biggest financial mistake of his career when he turned down a reported seven-year, $50-million extension to remain with the Islanders beyond the 2013-14 season. Vanek told the Islanders he wanted to explore free agency, but later said he did not want to play in Brooklyn, site of the team’s then-new home in Barclays Center. He was traded to the Canadiens and later signed a three-year, free-agent deal with the Wild for a combined $19.5 million.
Vanek at the time said the move to Brooklyn didn’t fit his family and ultimately it didn’t suit the Islanders, who are planning a move to Belmont. Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment CEO Brett Yormark said a deal for the Islanders to play 60 games at the Nassau Coliseum over the next three seasons until a new facility is built should be finalized “in the next two weeks.’’
John Tavares, who was Vanek’s linemate for 47 games with the Islanders, said: “I think for the most part we respected him as a person as a player. He treated everybody extremely well, enjoyed his time here, played hard. He’s extremely talented, can put the puck in the net and make some plays. [Columbus] felt it was a move that was good for them. The season’s getting to the last push here, the final third. For us, a lot of work ahead.’’
The wild-card battle has the Blue Jackets with 69 points, followed by the Islanders (65), Panthers (62) and Red Wings (62) going into Tuesday night’s games. “Panic doesn’t work well,’’ Weight said. “I feel like we’ve deserved a little better. Now we got to go earn it.”
The Islanders should have their two new players — defenseman Brandon Davidson and forward Chris Wagner — available Wednesday in Montreal. Wagner, obtained from the Ducks, arrived in time for practice after catching a flight from the West Coast.
Wagner played in college at Colgate and has family in Massachusetts. He is thrilled being closer to home, and, he said, “obviously excited for the playoff push.”
With Jim Baumbach