Anton Volchenkov's first choice wasn't New Jersey

volchenkovzajac.jpgThe twists and turns of NHL free agency are a wicked and creative soap opera on their own, but it’s interesting to hear from players what might’ve been had things shaken out differently. For instance, take the case of new Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov. Believe it or not, the Devils weren’t his first choice this offseason as Rich Chere of the Newark Star-Ledger tells us.

The hard-hitting defenseman, signed as an unrestricted free agent July 1, would have preferred to stay with the Ottawa Senators.

“I would have liked to stay in Ottawa. My next choice was to find a good place for me,” Volchenkov said today as he visited the Prudential Center.

So why didn’t he re-sign with the Senators?

“They made me an offer, not good enough,” Volchenkov said. “That’s why I didn’t sign with Ottawa.”

Struggling just a bit with his English, he said he had offers from a couple of different teams.

It’s not terribly surprising that Volchenkov’s first choice was Ottawa, after all it’s where he’d spent his entire career up until now. Once former Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar got an offer from the Senators he couldn’t refuse, there wasn’t really room for Volchenkov in Ottawa. Once the Penguins snagged former Devils defenseman Paul Martin, the vacancy in New Jersey made the Devils a relatively easy choice. What also made the Devils an easy choice for one the league’s best defensive defensemen is the brand of hockey played in New Jersey.

“This is a really good defensive team,” he said. “They always play in the playoffs. They always play hard. They’re a very exciting team.”

Some folks might still quip about that last line, but any team boasting Zach Parise can’t be all too dull. And if they got Ilya Kovalchuk back in the fold they’d be even more exciting. Say, didn’t Volchenkov play with Kovalchuk in international hockey? Any chance he’s tried to help pull strings there?

He said he hopes Ilya Kovalchuk signs with the Devils, but hasn’t tried to influence the left winger.

“It’s (been) interesting. I’d be happy if he signed here,” Volchenkov said. “He’s a good player. It’s not my decision. It’s a decision for him.”

So much for that possibility. Volchenkov’s fit in New Jersey really is ideal and given that they also added Henrik Tallinder to help them move the puck as well, losing Paul Martin won’t hurt the Devils quite so much and they added better depth on defense. All things work out for a reason and in this case, for the Devils, it works out perfect.

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    Linden: Virtanen must earn his spot on Canucks roster

    VANCOUVER, BC - OCTOBER 10: Jake Virtanen #18 of the Vancouver Canucks skates during the pre-game warm up prior NHL action against the Calgary Flames on October 10, 2015 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
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    The Vancouver Canucks are loaded with question marks for next season.

    One of them will be about what is best for the development of right winger Jake Virtanen, who will turn 20 years old next month and is coming off his first NHL campaign. He scored seven goals and 13 points in 55 games as a 19-year-old rookie. On occasion, he showed an ability to drive the net and to be a physical forward capable of crushing the opposition.

    That big, physical, powerful forward that can also score is something the Canucks need. Virtanen could still evolve into that player. (On a similar note: Evander Kane trade speculation has been rampant in Vancouver in recent weeks.)

    Becoming a consistent performer, showing more than just flashes of potential, has been a talking point surrounding Virtanen this summer.

    He’ll be eligible to play with the Utica Comets in the AHL next season, and there is competition at the right wing in Vancouver, with numerous veteran players also listed at that position. That means a spot on the roster won’t be guaranteed for Virtanen, taken sixth overall in the 2014 NHL Draft.

    “Jake is going to be a big part of this team for years. It was a stepping stone for him and I was out there (Vancouver) for a week and saw him training and he looked good to me,” Canucks’ center Bo Horvat told Ben Kuzma of The Province newspaper.

    “He doesn’t have the mindset that he’s on the team. He has to work for it. It’s the consistency part of the game and you can’t take a night off like in junior. You can take some off knowing it’s a for-sure win and an easier night. There are no easy nights in the NHL. On any night, any team can surprise you.”

    Last season, the Canucks kept Virtanen and Jared McCann with the big club, despite the option of sending them back to junior and not burning the first years of their respective entry-level contracts.

    It was a major step for a team as it transitions to a younger roster, a younger core. It also came with an abundance of growing pains, culminating in Daniel Sedin ripping into his team after a particularly poor effort versus St. Louis in March.

    After the season ended, and the Canucks finished 28th in the overall standings, head coach Willie Desjardins threw down the gauntlet, saying the team would focus once again on trying to win, and putting the onus on the youngsters to be good enough to help in that aspect.

    When it comes to Virtanen, his conditioning has turned into an emphasis this summer.

    “I think Jake has … a very raw and very unique skill set,” Canucks’ president Trevor Linden told TSN 1040. “He’s come a long way. Last year was an important year for him, just having him see what it takes to get to the next level.

    “Jake knows he’s going to have to come to training camp this fall and earn a spot.”

    Related: Since World Juniors disappointment, Virtanen has been ‘a different player’ for Canucks

    NHLPA hire Bruce Meyer brings a ‘wealth of knowledge,’ says Fehr

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    Bruce Meyer’s résumé of victories as a lawyer is a long and impressive one, and he has now joined the NHL Players’ Association as a senior director of collective bargaining, policy and legal, the union announced Thursday.

    During his tenure of more than 25 years at the law firm Weil, Gotshal and Manges LLP, Meyer represented the NHLPA, NFLPA and NBPA.

    The NHLPA said in a statement that in his new position, Meyer “will focus on a wide array of policy and legal issues.”

    In working for those unions, he was involved in matters such as collective bargaining and arbitration, as per his online profile.

    “Bruce will be a great addition to the NHLPA’s staff. He brings a wealth of knowledge to this new role coming from his law firm where he gained three decades’ worth of valuable experience, including effectively representing the NHLPA and other Players’ Associations as outside counsel,” said NHLPA executive director Don Fehr in a statement.

    The NHLPA said Meyer will begin at his new position in mid-August.

    The news of this hire comes more than a month after the league sued the NHLPA after Dennis Wideman‘s 20-game suspension for hitting linesman Don Henderson was reduced to 10 games by a neutral arbitrator.

    Related: Report: NHL dismisses neutral arbitrator who reduced Wideman’s suspension

    Sweet ride: Blackhawks sponsor CJ Wilson Racing’s Porsche Cayman at Road America

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    Chicago Blackhawks fans, start your engines!

    Yes, according to MotorSportsTalk, the Blackhawks have become the main sponsor of CJ Wilson Racing’s No. 35 car, a Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport, for the upcoming IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge event at Road America next month.

    That’s a sweet ride.

    From MotorSportsTalk:

    The partnership will officially launch at the United Center on Wednesday, August 3, from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m in advance of Saturday’s race. Fans will have the opportunity to get up close to the car, meet the drivers and Blackhawks Ambassador Denis Savard, and have their picture taken.

    The race takes place Aug. 6 at Road America in Wisconsin.

    Third team’s the charm? Devils ink Gormley to one-year, two-way deal

    <>during the first period at TD Garden on November 12, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.
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    Since being selected by the Coyotes at 13th overall in the 2010 NHL Draft, Brandon Gormley has had a difficult time breaking into the league on a full-time basis.

    On Thursday, the 24-year-old Gormley joined his third NHL team, signing with the New Jersey Devils on a one-year, two-way deal worth $650,000 at the NHL level, the club announced.

    Despite his draft status, Gormley has yet to play a full season in the big league, although this deal could give him an opportunity to end that. For the Devils, the deal adds more depth to the blue line in the organization and for a friendly price.

    Last season, Gormley split time between the Colorado Avalanche and its farm team, the San Antonio Rampage. Despite some high expectations about where he could fit on the Avs’ blue line, he was eventually put on waivers in January.

    He ended the season with one assist in 26 games with the Avalanche, and hit the open market after Colorado didn’t give him a qualifying offer.