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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    Video: Getzlaf, Perry, Kesler lose cool in scuffle with Kassian, Oilers

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    In the first round, Zack Kassian reminded the hockey world why he came into the league with considerable hype as a first-rounder, as he scored some big goals for the Edmonton Oilers.

    Of course, there’s a reason why Kassian has 522 penalty minutes in 313 career regular-season games. He can be a nasty presence who straddles the line.

    He did as much late in Game 1, getting into it with Ryan Kesler, and then things really got out of hand. Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and others were involved in “histrionics.”

    (Who wants to start a Patreon to find out what Getzlaf and Andrej Sekera were saying to each other, by the way?)

    It looks like the players involved were only whistled for roughing minors rather than fighting majors. This caps a tough night for Anaheim, who lost 5-3 and saw Kevin Bieksa suffer a troubling lower-body injury.

    King Leon: Draisaitl collects four points vs. Ducks to give Oilers a Game 1 win

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    So far, the Edmonton Oilers had been showing that they can win tight, low-scoring playoff games. And then the third period of Game 1 against the Anaheim Ducks happened.

    The two teams entered the final frame tied 1-1, with smaller breaks and bounces being the story. Then just about everything happened in the third, with Leon Draisaitl guiding the Oilers to a 5-3 win to take a 1-0 series lead.

    Draisaitl ended up with a goal and three assists, extending his point streak to three games (seven points during that span).

    He wasn’t the only Oilers player to raise some eyebrows, and actually, the other two starring members were a lot more surprising. Mark Letestu seemed to make the early difference with two power-play goals, while low-scoring defenseman Adam Larsson found the net twice, including on the game-winner.

    Phew, that’s a lot to absorb, right? This video captures the wildest scoring stretch of that period, even if there would be more:

    While Connor McDavid hasn’t been bad, he’s been quiet – by his lofty standards – so far in the Oilers’ run, and that was mostly true on Wednesday. He ended up with a mere secondary assist in this one,

    Yet, that might just be part of the good news for the Oilers. They advanced after McDavid had spotty series against the Sharks, and they just gave the Ducks their first postseason loss of 2017 with Draisaitl and others stealing the headlines.

    Things got nasty at the end of this game, with key Ducks such as Ryan Getzlaf being prominently involved. Such moments make it clear that Anaheim isn’t likely to bow out of this one easily (and perhaps not gracefully?) but that should only make for a captivating Game 2.

    That Game 2 airs Friday at 10:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN; you can watch online or via the NBC Sports App. Click here for the livestream link.

    Keep an eye on Oilers’ Slepyshev (the Ducks certainly should)

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    The breaks and breakaways frequently went the Edmonton Oilers’ way as they eliminated the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 of their first-round series. Those results have been more of a mixed bag for Edmonton against the Anaheim Ducks in Game 1 tonight, though.

    Anton Slepyshev is a great example of those ups and downs.

    In Game 6 against the Sharks, Slepyshev used his speed to score a breakaway tally that ended up being the game-winner. (See here for those friendly breakaways.)

    Slepyshev’s been burning the Ducks with his speed on Wednesday, but the Oilers have been burned in the process. For one thing, John Gibson turned aside this big chance shortly after Ryan Getzlaf gave Anaheim a 1-0 lead:

    Later on in that same second period, Slepyshev got a step on the Ducks defense again. This time, he didn’t just fail to score; he took a goalie interference penalty for bumping Gibson.

    With Ryan Nugent-Hopkins being among those hitting posts, it might feel like it’s all against the Oilers this time around, but crossbars/postsanother theme from Edmonton’s Game 6 win vs. San Jose – have more or less balanced out.

    And, one break really went Edmonton’s way: a Ducks defender broke his stick on the Oilers’ 5-on-3 opportunity, opening the door for a crucial Mark Letestu goal:

    The end result is a 1-1 tie, but give the Oilers credit for not getting rattled. If Slepyshev can keep up his efforts, his speed could be a factor in a series that looks like it could be a real tug-o-war.

    Jake Allen takes blame for Predators’ game-winner vs. Blues

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    Let’s be honest: the St. Louis Blues owe a lot to Jake Allen‘s work against the Minnesota Wild in that first-round series.

    He probably bought himself a significant amount of goodwill for that outstanding work, but Allen isn’t resting on his laurels. He admitted that “a little mistake by me cost” the Blues the 4-3 decision against the Predators, leaving St. Louis down 1-0 to Nashville.

    The goal in question was Vernon Fiddler‘s unlikely 4-3 tally, which came after an unsuccessful poke check attempt by Allen:

    Now, to be fair, that wasn’t even the only failed poke check that turned into a goal, as Pekka Rinne also got beat after making such an attempt:

    Then again, Allen is wise to score points with teammates for taking the blame. As far as his team, head coach Mike Yeo believes that it was the second period that really made the difference.

    Regardless, Allen and the Blues hope to carry over the momentum from their third-period dominance in Game 1 to Game 2 to tie the series 1-1.

    That contest airs on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET on Friday. (You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; here’s the livestream link.)