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The Rock, NJ • United States • 35 Years Old • Male
Source NHL.com
Article By: Mike G. Morreale

What happens when a team expected to make some noise in the Stanley Cup Playoffs instead goes quietly in a third consecutive opening-round upset?

Well, for starters, it's time to buck the trend.

That's precisely what Devils owners Jeff Vanderbeek and Mike Gilfillan and General Manager Lou Lamoriello thought they had done when they signed the biggest free agent prize available, Ilya Kovalchuk, to the largest contract in franchise history--17 years and $102 million. But less than eight hours after the Devils celebrated the agreement to keep Kovalchuk in New Jersey, the NHL rejected the agreement. Arbitrator Richard Bloch upheld that decision 20 days later, ruling the deal was a circumvention of the salary cap and collective bargaining agreement.

The sticking point was the fact Kovalchuk's deal was front-loaded to the point the skilled Russian would receive all but $4 million of the total value of the deal over the first 11 seasons. As it stands now, Kovalchuk is again an unrestricted free agent, but Lamoriello is hoping to rework a new deal that will comply with the CBA.

Like him or not, Kovalchuk would provide the Devils with that proven sniper they require in support players like Zach Parise, Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac.

The Devils won their ninth Atlantic Division championship in 2009-10 while reaching the 100-point mark for the 12th time in the last 15 full seasons, but fell far short of reaching their ultimate goal. The club earned the second seed in the Eastern Conference behind 48 victories and 103 points, but showed little life in a five-game loss to the seventh-seeded Philadelphia Flyers in the conference quarterfinal round. The Flyers finished 15 points behind the Devils but were 9-2-0 in 11 regular-season and playoff meetings.

Even new coach John MacLean admitted disappointment watching the Devils falter in the first round for the third straight season behind the tutelage of Jacques Lemaire, who retired after a one-season return.

"It's frustrating for everyone within the organization," he said. "I've been a part of this organization for a long time when we weren't in the playoffs or were expected to do things, and now with expectations for this team to do things, it's always disappointing when you don't go as far as you should. You want to win the Stanley Cup; that's always the goal here."

First it was their coach, then it was their best defenseman, Paul Martin.

Lemaire retired from his post at the conclusion of his team's season, admitting the grind of an 82-plus campaign had gotten the best of him. It was Lemaire's second stint in New Jersey; he coached them from 1993-94 through 1997-98. Lemaire led the Devils to six postseason appearances and the 1995 Stanley Cup.

The biggest loss within the locker room was that of Martin, who signed a five-year contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins in July. Martin played in 400 career games for New Jersey, but only 22 of those came in 2009-10, when he missed most of the season with a non-displaced fracture of his left forearm. Martin had 26 goals, 137 points and a plus-55 rating in six seasons with the Devils.

Defenseman Martin Skoula, traded to the Devils from the Toronto Maple Leafs for a 2010 fifth-round draft pick last March, returned to Europe and signed a one-year deal with Avangard Omsk of the Kontinental Hockey League.

Andy Greene

Andy Greene, D -- Greene excelled as the Devils' top defender in the absence of Paul Martin in 2009-10 and was even named the team's "Unsung Hero." He racked up career highs of 6 goals, 37 points and a plus-9 rating in 78 games -- and with Martin gone, he'll be counted on even more this season.

Jacob Josefson, C -- GM Lou Lamoriello traded up three spots to select the 6-foot, 190-pounder from Stockholm with the 20th pick in the 2009 Entry Draft and signed him to a three-year, entry-level contract in May. Josefson, who grew up as a fan of Detroit star Henrik Zetterberg, had 8 goals, 20 points and 20 penalty minutes in 43 regular-season games with Djurgardens of the Swedish Elite League in 2009-10.

Mattias Tedenby, LW -- The 5-foot-9, 170-pound Swedish forward, selected by the Devils with the 24th pick in the 2008 Entry Draft, also signed a three-year entry-level contract in May and, by all accounts, is ready for the NHL. He completed his second season with HV71 in the Swedish Elite League, posting 12 goals and 19 points in 44 games. Tedenby's HV71 defeated Josefson's Djurgardens squad in the Elite League finals. He is already being touted as one of the organization's best skaters.
Among the forwards, center Rob Niedermayer, who had 10 goals and 22 points in 71 games, signed a one-year contract with the Buffalo Sabres on July 7. Wingers Jay Pandolfo and Andrew Peters were allowed to leave as free agents, as was steady defenseman Mike Mottau.

The Devils also traded right wing Matt Halischuk and a second-round draft pick to the Nashville Predators on June 19 for center Jason Arnott. Halischuk played 20 games with the Devils last season, producing 2 points. He also played 32 games for the Devils' then AHL affiliate, the Lowell Devils, notching 11 goals and 22 points.

The biggest arrival came behind the bench -- MacLean, who spent 14 seasons with the Devils as a player and eight more as a member of the coaching staff, succeeded Lemaire and became the team's 19th coach and the first former New Jersey player to get the job.

When Martin didn't sign prior to July 1 and quickly signed with Pittsburgh, Lamoriello knew he had to react quickly to fill the void -- and he did, reeling in one of the most sought-after defenders available by signing Anton Volchenkov to a six-year deal. Volchenkov, 28, has played his entire NHL career with the Ottawa Senators. He has 16 goals and 94 points with 297 penalty minutes in 428 career games and has produced 12 assists and 15 points in 61 playoff contests. But Volchenkov is at his best in the defensive zone -- he's the only player who's been in the top 10 in blocked shots in each of the last five seasons.

Lamoriello also inked defenseman Henrik Tallinder to a four-year deal. The 31-year-old Swede has spent his entire career with Buffalo. In 82 games with the Sabres last season, Tallinder scored 20 points (4 goals, 16 assists) with a plus-13 rating and was partnered most of the year with Calder Trophy-winning defender Tyler Myers.

"The two (defensemen) we got bring two different types of dimensions to our team," Lamoriello said. "Volchenkov … we've certainly played against enough. He's going to do something in our zone we haven't had recently … in fact, since Scott Stevens left. He's going to make it very difficult to play in that zone and complement the (Colin) Whites and (Bryce) Salvadors."

Arnott, acquired in the trade with Nashville, figures to be reunited with Elias. The two, along with Petr Sykora, formed the "A-Line" that played a big part in the Devils' 2000 Cup championship -- Arnott actually got the Cup-winner in Dallas.

Lamoriello also signed veteran backup goalie Johan Hedberg, who spent the previous four seasons in Atlanta. Expect Hedberg, now 37, to see enough action to give Martin Brodeur a few more nights of rest during the regular season.

With or without Kovalchuk (and the Devils certainly hope it's with him), New Jersey figures to have enough to make the playoffs again. It's what's happened after Game 82 in each of the last three Aprils that has left the Prudential Center faithful frustrated.

Kovalchuk, acquired from Atlanta in early February, had 10 goals and 27 points in 27 games after coming to New Jersey and went 2-4-6 in five playoff games. Kovy has scored 338 goals and 304 assists in his eight-year career, but has won a grand total of one playoff game. If he stays in New Jersey, the two-time 50-goal scorer gives the Devils the kind of sniper they've never had for a full season.

But Kovalchuk, who finished last season with 41 goals and 85 points in 76 games, isn't New Jersey's only big gun. Zach Parise had 38 goals and 44 assists for 82 points, while Travis Zajac (25-42-67), Jamie Langenbrunner (19-42-61), Elias (19-29-48) and Brian Rolston (20-17-37) rounded out the top six scorers.

Volchenkov and Tallinder will help in the defensive zone, but New Jersey doesn't figure to generate much offense from the blue line. Andy Greene was the top goal-scorer last season with just 6, and losing Martin takes away the Devils' best offensive defenseman.

Brodeur, now 38, played 77 regular-season games in '09-10 and didn't look as sharp as usual down the stretch and in the playoffs -- though a 45-25-6 record, 2.24 goals-against average, League-high nine shutouts and .916 save percentage are nothing to sneeze at. He added the career records for shutouts (110) and minutes played (63,520) to his career record for victories -- he'll pass the 600 mark early this season.
Filed Under:   new jersey devils   kovalchuck  
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Blog Archive

10 On Kovi free agency
12 WOW The Devils Make A Great Move!!!!
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13 Has Kovalchuck lost his footing with New Jersey Devils Fans?
13 Elias understands Kovalchuk's dilemma
14 Elias excited for what future holds
15 Lots of talk but nothing to announce yet on Kovalchuk
15 Kovalchuk Looking Less and Less Likely for New Jersey Devils
15 Kovalchuk desperately wants to be the highest paid Russian!!
15 Devils don't offer veteran center Eric Chouinard a contract
15 Anton Volchenkov: Devils were my second choice
15 MacLean meets the A-Train
16 Are Ilya Kovalchuk's salary demands tied to Alex Ovechkin?
16 Newly-signed Tyler Eckford wants to play his way into a job
16 Devils' World Won't End if Kovy Bypasses Newark
18 Kings believed they had a 50-50 chance of signing Kovinuts
19 Brian Rolston knows that changes are coming for Devils
19 Devils' signing of Ilya Kovalchuk puts a smile on John Mac!!
19 Dainius Zubrus: signing Ilya Kovalchuk was to shake up the Devils
19 What might happen next?????
20 Who Will Go???
20 Which Contracts Will Lou Dump Now?
20 Left winger Ilya Kovalchuk, there is significance to #17
21 Once Kovalchuk's deal is settled, attention to Zach!!!
21 NHL doesn't believe Ilya Kovalchuk will stay untill Age 44
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21 NHL Players' Assocation issues statement On Kovi
21 Lamoriello statement on Kovalchuk signing
21 ’t win Ilya Kovalchuk contract showdown
22 It's in hands of Ilya Kovalchuk and union
22 NHL might have picked wrong fight
22 LA Kings Dean Lombardi backs up Kovalchuck Contract
24 NHLPA to file grievance
25 The Kovi Saga
25 NHL prosecution merely a temper tantrum
26 Devils wait for players' union to file grievance
26 contract could trigger a war between Devils and NHL
27 Decision on Kovalchuk is expected nexty week
28 Kovalchuk contract could be restructured by arbitrator
28 Yann Danis Going to KHL
28 Mark Fraser Signed....
29 Newly-signed Mark Fraser vows to be 'mean, physical Player
30 Arbitrator has been agreed upon
30 Kovalchuck Hearing?????
31 Arbitrator - Richard Bloch a NEw Jersey Native
31 Association agree on arbitrator to rule on Ilya Kovalchuk
03 Kovalchuk will attend contract hearing
03 Devils will wear retro jerseys March 18 vs. Washington
04 D day for Kovi and the Devils
05 Roller Hockey at the Jersey Shore
06 Jim Dowd Shore High School Hockey Game set for Sunday
06 Is this is a set-up between Lou and Gary???
09 The arbitration decision coming today
11 Translated article from soviet sports kovalchuck
11 Devils name Rick Kowalsky head coach at Albany
12 HEATS ON!!!!
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16 Today might be the day
16 90 million over 10-13 for kovi?
16 Russian News Paper Reports Devs and Kovi....
17 Contract submitted???
18 Another Quiet day in the Kovi Front
19 Devils still waiting to see what happens with Kovy
19 “Status Quo” On Ilya Kovalchuk And Devils
20 Devils After Marc-Andre Bergeron???
20 Kovi wants nothing to do with the KHL
20 Elias on the Move???
21 Questions Surround Devils in Wake of Kovalchuck saga
22 Brian Burke Testified Against Ilya Kovalchuk Contract???
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23 Patrik Elias could be moved to sign fellow winger Zach Paris
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23 Possible contract for Kovalchuck
23 Devils add more youth to the roster
23 EJHradek_ESPN Reports NJ Devils meet with the NHL
24 News 12 New Jersey Reports on Kovi Contract...
24 Bryce Salvador to Stars...
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26 – NYPOST.com
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31 ’s official decision on Kovalchuk’s TODAY!!!!!
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