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The best news John MacLean received this summer was getting hired to coach the Devils.
However, the signing of Ilya Kovalchuk today ranks a close second.
"I have a smile on my face," MacLean said.
Now it will be MacLean's job to fit a talented individual into the Devils' team concept.
"We all know that, even looking at him on another team, that he's an exceptional talent," MacLean said. "As I've stated before, I have not heard from anybody throughout the organization a bad word about him. He's a tremendous teammate and addition. He'll have no issues playing for the team.
"He signed here for a reason, to try to win a championship. This organization has a good history of that, so you know he wants to be part of the team. That's what I'm excited about."
This could make the Devils favorites in the Eastern Conference.
"He adds a tremendous amount," MacLean said. "As far as us being the team to beat, I think we're going to be a very competitive team in this conference. But you say that now. There are a lot of things that have to fall into place as you go forward.
"I'm very confident with him in the lineup that we're going to be one of the top teams."
Eighteen days after the NHL free agency market opened, Kovalchuk finally made his decision. For a time, it appeared he preferred Los Angeles, trying several times to complete a deal with the Kings.
MacLean doesn't see anything negative about the way Kovalchuk went about making his decision.
"Not at all," the coach said. "When you're dealing with the kind of contract and the talent he is, everybody should be giving him more credit for making decisions. It seems to me he's a very clear thinker to go through the process of a major decision. Sometimes people tend to rush things or worry about what other people are doing. He thought clearly on this and wanted to make the right decision to be happy. And I think he is."
"I was never involved in negotiations or anything like that. Lou was doing the negotiating with him and the decision was going to be Kovy's whether or not he wanted to come here," MacLean said. "I'm just excited he's going to be part of the Devils."
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