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

Oct 10, 2010, 7:03 PM EDT

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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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