Although contract talks have not officially started between Thomas Vanek and the New York Islanders, the team is hoping to make the pending free agent feel more at home on Long Island by giving him his own Greek diner.
Vanek confirmed that while the deed to the Cassiopeia Diner in Rockville Centre is now his, negotiations on a standard player contract extension have not yet begun.
"Yeah, it's a great diner. I like it a lot," Vanek said after an initial walk-through the property on Banks Avenue off Sunrise Highway, across the street from King Kullen. "It's nice to feel comfortable, to call a place home, but it takes a while to get that."
The Greek diner has long been an institution on Long Island. The Cassiopeia, a 32-seat, 700-square foot chrome-coated restaurant, was built in 1946 and features a regular clientele of locals who enjoy its fast service, reasonably-priced selection of casual dishes and quaint atmosphere. Guests can enjoy appetizers, breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert anytime, as well as international cuisine from Greece, Italy, Mexico, Great Britain, Sweden, France and Germany.
"I don't like Greek food," said Vanek, who is not Greek. "People told me I would like it, but I didn't. I had that eggplant thing. Moussaka? Is that it? I don't know.
"But I'm not ignorant about it. I know the scenario. My thought process is I do like the diner."
Vanek doesn't expect to change much of the menu or decor immediately, but will instead see how the diner performs during the busy summer season before making any decisions.
"I'm sure we'll talk, but I'm trying to stay out of it," Vanek said. "Until summer gets close, I need to focus on the existing customers."
Since being acquired for winger Matt Moulson and a first and second round pick, Vanek has found great chemistry with linemates John Tavares and Kyle Okposo. In 33 games as an Islander, Vanek has 13 goals and 19 assists for 32 points including a career-high ten game point streak that was recently snapped.
But as a premier unrestricted free agent, Vanek is looking for a big contract this summer. The Islanders would like to give him one. For now, they'll give him a diner.
When reached for comment, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the diner did not violate terms of the NHL-NHLPA collective bargaining agreement signed in 2013. "However, there are salary cap consequences, which every member club must weigh when entering the restaurant business," Daly said.
"Our plan has been to make sure Thomas and his family to fall in love with Long Island," Islanders general manager Garth Snow said. "There's no better way to do that than giving him his own diner to hang out in, order his 'usual' and throw a few quarters in a table top jukebox."
The Islanders' other key unrestricted free agent, defenseman Andrew MacDonald, has not received a 7-11 or Dunkin Donuts yet from Snow, his agent confirmed.
This is fake. The Islanders didn't give anyone a diner. This one doesn't even exist. But I bet you're hungry now.