New Jersey Devils President and GM Lou Lamoriello said he wanted to give his team "a different look" on defense. That look is big, strong and nasty.
That's what he got when he signed veteran blueliners Anton Volchenkov and Henrik Tallinder to multi-year deals Thursday, the first day of free agency.
"We're trying to make us harder to play against in our own end and make it more difficult on the (opposing forwards)," Lamoriello said.
The moves come the same day the team bid farewell to blueliner Paul Martin, who signed a five-year deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
While Martin had a more offensive bent, the two players signed in his place are defensive stalwarts.
"We made a decision coming into this period and we were going to set some priorities, and that's to get our defense better," said Lamoriello, "and I believe our defense is better than where it was last year."
Volchenkov, who reportedly signed a six-year deal worth $25.5 million, is a 6-foot-1, 226-pound tank. He had a career-high 4 goals this past season, but the 28-year-old Moscow native is renowned for his hitting and shot-blocking. He's ranked in the top 10 in the NHL in blocked shots for five straight seasons.
"He's going to do something in our zone that we haven't done since Scott Stevens left," said Lamoriello, "and that's make it very hard to play in our zone."
In seven seasons, all with the Ottawa Senators, he had 16 goals, 94 points and 297 penalty minutes in 428 games. He also represented Russia at the 2006 and 2010 Olympics.
Tallinder, a 6-3, 215-pounder, reportedly signed for four years and $13.5 million. He had 4 goals and 20 points last season, and in eight seasons with the Buffalo Sabres, he has 108 points in 468 games. Lamoriello said when retaining Martin wasn't going to happen, he zeroed in on Tallinder.
As much as his stats tell about his ability, Lamoriello was just as impressed by the job Tallinder did in mentoring Calder Trophy winner Tyler Myers last season.
The 31-year-old native of Stockholm might be used more in a teaching role with New Jersey. Lamoriello said the team's top prospect is 6-4, 215-pound defenseman Alexander Urbom, a Stockholm native who will be given a chance to win a roster spot in training camp.
"We've got three young Swedish players coming in (Jacob Josefson, Mattias Tedenby and Urbom)," said Lamoriello. "He's 31 years old. He's in his prime. He's a mature guy."
The Devils also signed goaltender Johan Hedberg to a one-year deal to back-up Martin Brodeur, and Lamoriello said the team also remains in the hunt for high-scoring left wing Ilya Kovalchuk, the jewel of the free-agent market.
"He's never been anything but a priority," Lamoriello said. And in regards to any salary cap issues, the GM added, "We'll make room. If something can be worked out, we'll find room."
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