NHL notebook: Wild's Vanek has no love for Brooklyn
Minnesota Wild forward Thomas Vanek skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. (John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports)
After his Tuesday session with the media, we know one more thing about Minnesota Wild forward Thomas Vanek: he does not like Brooklyn.
Vanek said he dismissed returning to the New York Islanders as a free agent last year in part due to his lack of love towards Brooklyn, the club's new home starting this fall.
Vanek, a 31-year-old scoring winger, was an unrestricted free agent who had split his 2013-14 season between the Buffalo Sabres (13 games), Islanders (47) and Montreal Canadiens (18). He chose to sign a two-year deal with the Minnesota Wild instead.
"It was close in February (2014) and I thought about it long and hard," Vanek told reporters on Tuesday.
"There (were) two factors. I made a choice that I really wanted to go to free agency. But after being here for a while I loved it (on Long Island).
"The one thing I didn't like was the move to Brooklyn. I think if the rink would have been built here, it should be here on the island. There was probably a good chance I still would be here."
In 72 games this season, Vanek has 19 goals and 49 points.
Not even the Anaheim Ducks' second-highest paid defenceman is immune to the occasional healthy scratch.
Cam Fowler, the young, healthy, $4-million-per-season Ducks rearguard, was scheduled to sit out Tuesday as the team faced the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Fowler didn't have his best outing against the New York Rangers Sunday. He was on the ice for three of the Blueshirts' seven goals in a blowout loss.
"With the luxury that we have with eight premium NHL defencemen, sometimes something like this is going to happen," a candid Fowler told the Orange County Register following the morning skate. "It's on the individual. It's on myself. It's because of my play recently. As hard as it is to say, it's the honest truth."
It would be the first healthy scratch of Fowler's 338-game NHL career. He doesn't even recall being benched during his minor hockey days in Michigan.
"It's something I'm not used to," the 23-year-old said. "It's a difficult thing."
NHL GAMBLING PROBLEM?
Although there was no evidence that Thomas Vanek was betting on hockey games, a lawyer for a longtime Rochester, N.Y., bookmaker says the NHL should take a serious look into itself.
"I'm shocked that the NHL has not commenced an investigation into whether NHL or AHL players gambled on hockey," Vincent Merante, who is representing bookmaker Paul Borrelli, told the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.
Vanek, who now skates for the Minnesota Wild, once played for the Buffalo Sabres' AHL affiliate in Rochester.
Although there was no proof that NHL players bet on hockey among the 50,000 pages of evidence and hundred of hours of wiretaps put forward by the state, Merante said it should be a cause for concern for the league.
"The NHL players who are supposed to be role models should be embarrassed," he said.
Merante said Borrelli is planning to plead guilty to illegal gambling and money laundering on April 16 in a case that also involved brothers Joseph and Mark Ruff. The trio were arrested in June and were accused of running an off-shore gambling business.
The Ruffs have pleaded guilty to charges in connection with the gambling business, including the extortion of a hockey player that was later revealed to be Vanek.
Seeking partial payment of gambling debts owed, the Ruffs planned to extort $230,000 from Vanek.
AVS SIGN DEFENCEMAN
The Colorado Avalanche signed 19-year-old defenceman Mason Geertsen to a three-year, entry-level contract Tuesday.
The 6-foot-4, 205-pound Geertsen just completed his 2014-15 season with the Western Hockey League's Vancouver Giants, where he led all team defencemen in scoring with 13 goals and 25 assists in 69 games.
"Mason is coming off a strong junior season," said Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic. "We are pleased to have him under contract and look forward to seeing him at training camp."
Selected by Colorado in the fourth round (93rd overall) of the 2013 draft, Geertsen has 19 goals, 59 assists and 437 PIM in 245 career WHL games.
Defenceman Nate Schmidt was assigned to the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League from the Washington Capitals. Schmidt has registered four points in a career-high 39 games with Washington this season ... Winger Kevin Fiala joined the Nashville Predators on an emergency recall from Milwaukee of the American Hockey League, the team announced Tuesday. The 2014 first-round draft pick will be the fourth 18-year-old to play for the Predators in franchise history.