Zenon Konopka is headed home.
The Minnesota Wild announced today on the team’s website that Konopka has been claimed off waivers by the last place Buffalo Sabres–a team the Wild soundly beat 4-1 last night at the Xcel Energy Center. While he has moved around a lot in his NHL career, there’s no question Minnesota will hold a special place in his heart.
“I really enjoyed my time here,” said Konopka. “I got so connected with the charities and the city and the people of Minneapolis-St. Paul. The toughest part of the whole thing is leaving this area. My time here was amazing, but this is the nature of the beast and I’ll never forget my time here.
“I still plan to write that check to the Minnesota Wild Foundation [from wine sales].”
Acquired via free agency on July 1st, 2012, the rugged fourth line pivot would score one goal and one assist for two points and 172 penalty minutes in 73 games over the course of two seasons in the Red, White and Green. The 33-year old native of Niagara on the Lake, Ontario has played in 323 games with Anaheim, Columbus, Tampa Bay, New York Islanders, Ottawa and Minnesota, notching 12 goals and 17 assists for 29 points and 1,049 penalty minutes.
For now, he plans to enjoy being home.
“It’s 35 minutes from my hometown,” said Konopka. “My mom was born in Buffalo, my grandparents, when they were alive, were from there, my aunt and uncle. The best call I made was to my aunt in the nursing home. She was telling everybody there, ‘My nephew is going to play for the Sabres.’”
Minnesota’s former tough guy was originally placed on waivers for the purpose of recalling goaltender Darcy Kuemper to back up Niklas Backstrom with Josh Harding sidelined due to an illness.
In other news, Minnesota Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin was found aimlessly wandering the halls of the Xcel Energy Center with a cup of coffee with Konopka’s name on it in his hands. He’s currently seeing a therapist.