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.

Scroll Down For:

    Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

    Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist
    1 Comment

    DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

    Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

    Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

    Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

    Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

    Fleury had 21 saves.

    The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

    Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

    The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

    Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

    The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

    Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

    NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.

    Fabbri’s first spoils McDavid’s debut as Blues down Oilers

    Robby Fabbri, Justin Schultz
    1 Comment

    ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rookie Robby Fabbri scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period to help the St. Louis Blues beat Edmonton 3-1 Thursday night, spoiling Oilers rookie Connor McDavid‘s NHL debut.

    Vladimir Tarasenko had the tying goal for the Blues near the midpoint of the second period, and Troy Brouwer added an empty-netter with 18 seconds remaining in the third. Brian Elliott finished with 23 saves.

    Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored in the first period for Edmonton and Cam Talbot had 28 saves.

    McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, took 22 shifts, played 18:07 and was on the ice for Brouwer’s goal. He had two shots on goal, and struggled on faceoffs – winning only three of 13.

    Fabbri, a 19-year-old forward — and McDavid’s childhood friend — was also playing in his first NHL game. The Blues’ first-round pick in 2014 was one of three rookies in the St. Louis lineup, joining defensemen Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson.

    Nugent-Hopkins gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead late in the first period with a fluke power-play goal. He lost a face-off but when Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tried to clear the puck it bounced off Alexander Steen and past Brian Elliott. Nugent-Hopkins was credited with the unassisted power-play goal with 2:38 remaining in the period.

    Tarasenko tied it a 9:10 of the second after getting loose on a breakaway with a stretch pass from Alex Pietrangelo and beating Talbot through his legs.

    Tarasenko, who signed an eight-year, $60 million extension in the offseason, was the last Blues player to score in his debut.

    NOTES: McDavid and F Anton Slepyshev made their NHL debuts for the Oilers. … St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina dropped the ceremonial first puck. … The attendance was announced as standing room-only 19,327.