Lou Lamoriello had an answer for losing his best defenseman to free agency.
The New Jersey Devils president and general manager simply signed two veteran defenders and added a new backup goalie for show.
Hours after losing Paul Martin to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Devils replaced him by signing veterans Henrik Tallinder and Anton Volchenkov to long-term contracts.
Tallinder got a four-year, $13.5 million contract, while Volchenkov got six years and $25.5 million.
“We’re just delighted,” Lamoriello said. “We’re going to be tougher to play in our end. They are two different types of players. Tallinder is a puck-moving defenseman and the other (Volchenkov), you know what he brings. He plays the role like Scott Stevens played it. We’re better on defense today than we were last year and I feel we can still get better.”
New Jersey also signed veteran Johan Hedberg to a one-year, $1.5 million contract to play behind No. 1 goalie Martin Brodeur.
After the opening day of free agency, Lamoriello said the Devils will continue to try to re-sign forward Ilya Kovalchuk.
“We’ll see,” Lamoriello said. “We’re still working on it.”
Lamoriello said the Devils still have money to spend.
“If we can get better we will,” Lamoriello said. “It’s not a case of having to do anything. Our first priority was getting our defense better and certainly making sure we had the right backup goaltender.”
All three moves came after Martin signed a five-year, $25 million contract with Atlantic Division-rival Pittsburgh. Martin had earned $4.5 million in the final injury-plagued season of his contract with New Jersey.
“These things happen,” Lamoriello said of losing Martin. “It was a tough year for Paul so you don’t look back.”
The 31-year-old Tallinder had four goals and 16 assists in 82 games last season with Buffalo. The stay-at-home defenseman has 20 career goals and 88 assists in seven seasons with the Sabres.
He is also a leader. He ranked second on the Sabres last season, averaging 20 minutes, 36 seconds in ice time. He also mentored Tyler Myers, the NHL’s rookie of the year last season.
Volchenkov, 28, is a tough defensive-minded defenseman, who has 16 goals and 78 assists in his NHL career. Known as the ‘A-Train,’ he spent the past seven seasons with the Ottawa Senators.
Hedberg went 21-16-6 with a 2.62 goals-against average with the Thrashers. He will replace Yann Danis.
“He played very well in Atlanta and we know a lot about him,” Lamoriello said. “We’re just delighted with him.”