Well this certainly has been a busy day for the Devils so far and not all in the negative. Yes, I had the torch lit ready to descend on the Prudential Center when leading defenseman Paul Martin walked seemingly without much of a fight from the Devils to keep him - to the Penguins of all teams, for a reasonable salary of $5 million a year for five seasons to boot. Clearly our HOF general manager Lou Lamoriello had to make multiple moves to fill the gap.
Admittedly I wasn't too thrilled with ex-Sabre Henrik Tallinder when I first heard of his signing at four years and nearly $3.5 million per, especially given the fact he isn't a great puck-mover. However hearing that he was such a big influence on Calder winner and future Norris candidate Tyler Myers certainly helps, though I'll defer to our Sabres expert as to how good Tallinder actually is, but if he helps tutor at least one of our young guys (either fellow Swede Alexander Urbom or puck-mover candidates Tyler Eckford and Matt Taormina) I'll be okay with that.
Our big move (at least as of now) was yet to come and by big, I mean Anton Volchenkov from Ottawa, to the tune of six years and just over $4 million per, with the seemingly standard NTC. Volchenkov thrills me for two reasons, he's a big hitter and as good a shot blocker as they come. True the latter attribute hasn't always been appreciated by goaltender Martin Brodeur, who would rather not have his defensemen screen him to block shots.
However, given Brodeur's age and Volchenkov's obvious skill I do have some hope that the 'Brodeur rules' will be relaxed at least to an extent when the big Russian's on the ice. Somewhat amusingly Volchenkov's signing completed an odd, unofficial three-team 'swap' between the Devils, Penguins and Senators where the Penguins got Martin from us, we got Volchenkov from Ottawa and they got the aging Sergei Gonchar from the Penguins.
Another slight eye-opener was the signing of former Thrasher Johan Hedberg as Brodeur's latest caddy. Not only did the 37-year old Hedberg have a better year last year than you normally see from someone that signs here to be a sacrificial lamb on the bench but he also signed a $1.5 million deal (with incentives and a NTC of his own). So perhaps now that we have a veteran goalie who isn't making the league minimum, maybe just maybe Brodeur isn't going to play 77 games this year? One can only speculate.
And what of Ilya Kovalchuk, who's still on the market? While it's true the Devils have only around $5 million in cap space as of this moment, they can exceed the cap by a few million more until the regular season starts, and odds are at least one of our slow and slower defensemen (since Colin White has a NTC, Bryce Salvador's the more likely candidate) will have to be moved even if we don't need the cap space since it would be odd to have a defense with White, Salvador, Volchenkov and Tallinder - none of whom have any offensive skill to speak of.
While the smart money still favors the Kings among others in the Kovy sweepstakes it's interesting to note that Volchenkov and ex-Thrasher buddy Hedberg are both represented by Kovy's agent Jay Grossman. My interest is piqued, and no I don't believe the rubbish that signing Kovy means that we won't be able to re-sign Zach Parise in two years. First off, one way or another we'll have Brian Rolston's contract off the books by then, combine that number with Parise's current salary and we'll have more than enough room to sign him. Plus it's not exactly unprecedented for a team to have two highly paid offensive stars and still be able to ice a competitive team around them - see the Capitals, Penguins, Hawks and Wings for examples.
Either way I suspect we'll have an answer shortly as most of the big names do tend to sign on Day One of free agency and we're only at 6 PM on July 1.