Paul Martin says Devils were never a factor in free agency, expects to get booed by fans

Penguins defenseman Paul Martin’s off-season was filled with intrigue as an unrestricted free agent. When teams came calling bidding for his services, he had two serious competitors in Pittsburgh and Los Angeles.

The team missing from that list was his former team the New Jersey Devils. Did Martin spurn the Devils to sign with their divisional rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins? According to Martin, it wasn’t like that at all as he tells Rich Chere of the Newark Star-Ledger.

Martin actually thought he might stay with the Devils. But when it became obvious that general manager Lou Lamoriello’s focus was on Ilya Kovalchuk, the 29-year-old defenseman signed a five-year, $25 million deal with the Penguins on July 1.

“There really wasn’t any offer. It was more of seeing where I was at,” Martin recalled. “We really didn’t get anywhere during the time they could’ve offered me a contract. Me and (agent) Ben Hankinson figured out that Kovy was their main priority.

“When the day (July 1) came it was a matter of having to wait to see where the pieces fell and if Kovy would sign here. That would’ve been nice knowing they could’ve signed me and Kovy, but it happened so fast. You don’t have the time to weigh your options.”

Kovalchuk or bust for New Jersey seems rather appropriate considering how their off-season went. Getting to splurge on Anton Volchenkov and Henrik Tallinder seemed like hefty spending after getting things squared away with Kovalchuk.

As for the greeting Martin expects to get in New Jersey tomorrow night as the Devils take on the Penguins, Martin is hoping for the best but expecting the worst.

“I’m sure they will boo. I saw it with Nieder,” Martin said in recalling Scott Niedermayer’s return to New Jersey with the Ducks. “How do you boo a guy like that? I just hope it’s not as bad for me as it was with Scott Gomez when he was playing for the Rangers.”

The parallels are certainly available as far as things between Martin and Gomez go. Both signed with teams within the division for good money (or in Gomez’s case, insane money) but I don’t imagine that many Devils fans were holding out hope that Paul Martin would stick around in New Jersey, especially with Ilya Kovalchuk’s status as a free agent looming.

That said, if they booed Scott Niedermayer in New Jersey, there’s really no hope for Paul Martin to get by unscathed. That is, unless, Devils fans have gotten in touch with their cuddly side the last couple of years.

(Photo: Jonathan Daniel – Getty Images)

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    Bruins’ second line officially goes under the microscope

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    While much has been written about the Boston Bruins’ depleted defense, there’s also a good amount of intrigue about the forward group, which will look dramatically different tonight compared to last year’s season opener.

    Here are the Bruins’ expected lines versus the Jets:

    Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronLoui Eriksson
    Matt BeleskeyDavid KrejciDavid Pastrnak
    Jimmy HayesRyan SpoonerBrett Connolly
    Chris KellyJoonas KemppainenZac Rinaldo

    The line most under the microscope may be that second one. In today’s Boston Globe, there’s a lengthy story on Krejci. The 29-year-old center with the big contract only played 47 games last season due to injuries. He finished with just 31 points.

    So, where is Krejci’s game now?

    Then there’s free-agent addition Matt Beleskey, a.k.a. Milan Lucic‘s replacement. Prior to scoring 22 times last year for the Ducks, the 27-year-old Beleskey had never tallied more than 11 goals in a season.

    So, is Beleskey a legitimate top-six forward?

    On the other wing, it’s David Pastrnak, the 19-year-old who, somewhat surprisingly, emerged as one of the top rookies in the league last year.

    So, can Pastrnak take another step forward?

    “It’s been a good three plus weeks where we’ve been able to kind of work individually, as a group, as a line, with different players and different personalities,” said coach Claude Julien. “We’re pleased with it. We’re optimistic and we just have to let things work themselves out too.”

    Lucic: If I wanted to hurt Couture, ‘I would have hurt him’


    Last night in Los Angeles, Kings forward Milan Lucic received a match penalty after skating the entire width of the ice to give San Jose’s Logan Couture a two-hand shove to the face.

    Lucic didn’t hurt Couture, who had caught Lucic with an open-ice hit that Lucic didn’t like. Couture’s smiling, mocking face was good evidence that the Sharks’ forward was going to be OK.

    This morning, Lucic was still in disbelief that he was penalized so harshly.

    “I didn’t cross any line,” Lucic said, per Rich Hammond of the O.C. Register. “Believe me, if my intentions were to hurt him, I would have hurt him.”

    While Lucic knew he deserved a penalty, he said after the game that he didn’t “know why it was called a match penalty.” His coach, Darryl Sutter, agreed, calling it “a borderline even roughing penalty.”

    And though former NHL referee Kerry Fraser believes a match penalty was indeed warranted, Lucic said this morning that he hasn’t heard from the NHL about any possible supplemental discipline.

    Nor for that matter has Dustin Brown, after his high hit on Couture in the first period.

    In conclusion, it’s good to have hockey back.

    Related: Sutter says Kings weren’t ‘interested’ in checking the Sharks