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NHL free agency: Devils reportedly close to signing Damien Brunner

In the wake of Ilya Kovalchuk's retirement, the Devils appear to be close to finding some help on the wing.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The New Jersey Devils are picking up the pieces after the shocking announcement that forward Ilya Kovalchuk will retire from the National Hockey League.

According to a tweet by Nicola Berger of the Swiss newspaper Neue Luzerner Zeitung, the Devils are close to signing Switzerland native and unrestricted free agent forward Damien Brunner. The Devils are "doing a lot of a background work on him" right now, Berger says. If true, Brunner would ostensibly fill the roster spot vacated by Kovalchuk.

Brunner is one of the most intriguing free agents left on the market. The 27-year-old put up 26 points in 44 games last season, and nine points in 14 postseason games. Still, much of his time was spent playing with players on the talent level of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, so you're obviously going to see questions about whether or not he's capable of creating with lesser talents.

New Jersey is currently trying to find someone who can put up some goals after Ilya Kovalchuk chose to retire and return to Russia on Thursday. Kovalchuk left $77 million over 12 years on his contract on the table by doing so. His departure leaves the Devils with $10.6 million in cap space.

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