The New Jersey Devils have their hands full this off-season to say the least. On their docket they havd to look for a new head coach (again) as well as decide what they’re going to do about negotiating with soon-to-be unrestricted free agents forward Ilya Kovalchuk and defenseman Paul Martin. Paul Martin, however, wants some assurances first.
Meanwhile, Martin told The Post that he and GM Lou Lamoriello agreed to wait until after a new Devils coach is hired to discuss contract. That scenario could be troublesome, considering that Jacques Lemaire was hired last July 13 and other teams could swoop up Martin, who made $4.5 million last season, on July 1.
Martin waiting to see who will be named coach isn’t exactly a subtle shot across the bow for Lamoriello and could provide the first in what may turn out to be franchise method changing decisions for the Devils. We all know the Devils don’t exactly employ the most offensively flexible way of playing hockey. With hugely gifted offensive stars like Zach Parise just itching for some freedom, a puck-moving offensively gifted defenseman like Paul Martin waiting things out to see who the boss will be says a lot for what at least he wants to see happen. Martin also has all the leverage here.
There’s not exactly a lot of greatness to be had when it comes to defensemen on the free agent market this summer as ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun talked about earlier this year. Aside from Martin you’ve got Sergei Gonchar out there and Stephane Robidas as well. The difference between guys like Robidas and Gonchar with Paul Martin is that Martin is decidedly younger. Gonchar is 36 years-old while Robidas is 33 and Martin is just 29. If you’re a team looking to improve your blue line the easy yet expensive way, getting someone with a skill set like what Paul Martin has could and should be the way to go.
Now the question that remains is, will Loophole Lou blink first? If history tells us anything, the answer is a firm, “No.”