Joe Yerdon

With Kovalchuk gone, Devils pursue Damien Brunner

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Now that Ilya Kovalchuk is an ex-Devils forward, they need to find a way to replace all the offense lost. They may have found a way to start doing just that.

Nicola Berger of Swiss newspaper Neue Luzerner Zeitung reports the Devils are hot after free agent Damien Brunner and are close to signing the Swiss winger.

Berger says the Devils are “doing a lot of background work on him” which must translate into “finding out if he’ll suddenly retire to play in Switzerland at a moments notice.”

Brunner made his NHL debut last season with the Detroit Red Wings and was an instant success story as he scored 12 goals and finished with 26 points. He also made his mark in shootouts proving to be an effective scorer there as well. While Detroit wanted to keep him around, his asking price was a bit too high for their salary cap needs.

Report: Corvo signs with Ottawa — one year, $900k

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Joe Corvo is apparently getting good about returning to teams he once played for.

Don Brennan of the Ottawa Sun reports the 36 year-old defenseman has signed with the Ottawa Senators. No details are available on the term of the contract.

UPDATE: Bruce Garrioch of the Sun says it’s a one-year, $900,000 deal.

Corvo played for two seasons with the Sens back in the 2006-07 and 07-08 seasons before being dealt to Carolina. He played last season with the Hurricanes after spending a not-so memorable season in Boston. Now he heads back to Ottawa where he’ll likely be used as a sixth or seventh defenseman.

He’s more of an offensive defenseman as he had six goals and 11 assists for the Hurricanes last season. His not-so stellar defense earned him the nickname of “Uh-Oh Corvo” during his last spin in Ottawa. Awkward.

Minnesota columnist: ‘Cooke is a cheap-shot artist’

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Wild fans are a bit restless these days.

Minnesota lost longtime forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard to the Islanders in free agency and shipped out Devin Setoguchi to Winnipeg, they’ve also added noted controversy lightning rod Matt Cooke to a three-year deal.

The latter move doesn’t exactly sit well with one Minnesota columnist.

Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune laced into the Wild for signing Cooke and comparing him to former goon Chris Simon. One excerpt from his column is particularly pointed.

Cooke is a cheap-shot artist. He is a dirty player. He’s a better player than Simon was, and he’s better than [Zenon] Konopka, and he might be better than the outgoing Cal Clutterbuck, but the acquisition hints of desperation. To quell fan backlash, Cooke will have to play well enough to allow Fletcher to quote the proverb, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” which, translated into hockey talk, is “Crosschecking someone from Vancouver is better than crosschecking someone for Vancouver.”

So much for “Minnesota nice.”

For what it’s worth, Wild GM Chuck Fletcher defended the signing saying Cooke has “really evolved” having not been suspended for the past two seasons. That’s not doing much to calm down the fans who may have been hoping a different move was on the way.

Rangers sign McDonagh: six years, $28.2 million

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Ryan McDonagh is about to get paid.

TSN’s Aaron Ward reports the restricted free agent defenseman and the New York Rangers are on the verge of signing a six-year agreement.

Steve Zipay of New York Newsday suspects the deal could be worth $5 million-$6 million per season.

Update (9:14 a.m. ET): Larry Brooks of the New York Post says the deal is worth $4.7 million per year, for an overall total of $28.2 million. Great deal.

McDonagh is one of the team’s high-priority guys to be taken care of this summer and locking him in helps keep the offer sheets away.

With him signed the Rangers still need to to take care of Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin, Mats Zuccarello, and newly acquired Justin Falk.

Jesse Spector of The Sporting News says teams could zero in on Stepan as an offer sheet candidate since the Rangers will be pushed closer to the salary cap.

Bouchard on Wild years: ‘It was a great run’

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Pierre-Marc Bouchard spent 11 years with the Minnesota Wild and as a free agent this summer found a new home with the New York Islanders. Spending that long with one team makes saying goodbye hard, but he does so with a heart filled with warm memories.

Michael Russo of the Star Tribune hears from the guy called “Butch” and how he’s thankful for his time with the Wild.

“It was a great run,” said Bouchard. “Eleven years with one team, it was a great run. Just getting drafted by that team in the first round and making the playoffs my first year there. It was a fun run to get to the conference final [in 2003]. We won the division [in 2008]. Every time we made the playoffs, it was always a fun time to play in Minnesota in front of our fans…

“Minnesota will always be a special place for me.”

Having good times like that to hang his hat on make moving on difficult. Now he’s off to an Islanders team that’s young and poised to make more noise in the East.