The New Jersey Devils were hit with some pretty devastating news last week, when forward Ilya Kovalchuk decided to call it a career and head back home to Russia to join the KHL. It was a move that some in the front office apparently saw coming, but they were still not adequately prepared for.
The Devils have made some impressive strides towards improving an offense that was lackluster last season, with additions like Michael Ryder and Ryane Clowe. But the subtraction of Kovalchuk from the equation will make things much tougher for them in the offensive end.
In the days that have followed, we’ve heard the Devils connected to forward Damien Brunner. The former Detroit Red Wings forward is an unrestricted free agent after one year in the league, and flashed some pretty serious potential as a 27-year-old rookie.
He posted 26 points in 44 games, including 12 goals. He disappeared for stretches, but was particularly strong for the Red Wings down the stretch and in the postseason. He has excellent hands and is smart with the puck. He has the skill set to be a very effective player out on the wing and is looking for a top six opportunity.
With Kovalchuk now out in New Jersey, Brunner has apparently become a target of the Devils. And there’s certainly a fit there. The Devils now lack a player who can control the puck, and while Brunner isn’t on Kovalchuk’s level, he does possess offensive upside that would help ease the loss of Kovy, at least to a certain degree.
We’ve heard varying levels of interest in terms of how much the Devils actually want Brunner. He wants a multi-year deal and an opportunity in the top six. The Devils are now in the position to offer him just that. Whether or not a deal eventually gets done, however, remains to be seen.