I will take this signing anyday!! The hunt to replace Joe Nieuwendyk was under way even before the free-agent center signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday. Aware that 42-year-old Igor Larionov was not going to return to the Detroit Red Wings, Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello began pursuing the NHL's oldest player early this week and signed the Russian star to a one-year contract yesterday. No terms were disclosed. Larionov, who turns 43 on Dec. 3, will report for his physical today with the rest of his new teammates before players take the ice tomorrow at South Mountain Arena in West Orange. "He's a special type of player, as far as I'm concerned," Lamoriello said of Larionov, who won three Stanley Cups with the Red Wings and two Olympic gold medals for Russia in 1984 and '88. "When it became evident to me that he was not going back to Detroit, I was intrigued by it. You never look to replace players. We could have gone with the players we had once (Nieuwendyk) was gone, but when a situation like this comes about it's almost like someone dropped (Larionov) in front of us." This will be Larionov's 14th and final NHL season no matter what happens, even if the Devils win the Cup and ask him back. "This is it. This is my last contract, I'm telling you right now," Larionov said. "I want to have another year to win the Cup. This will be my last year." In 872 career games with the Canucks, Sharks, Panthers and Red Wings, Larionov has 168 goals and 465 assists (633 points) and is regarded as a strong defensive player and a clever play-maker. "Defensively he's one of the better players in his own end," Lamoriello said. "Offensively, the creativity is still there. Pat (Burns) can use him in all different situations." Larionov said he planned to retire had Detroit gone to the Finals last spring, but now feels he has unfinished business, even at his age. "I've been the oldest player in the game for many years now," Larionov said. "I feel good and I'm excited to play a full season. I played 74 games last season (10 goals, 33 assists) and I wanted to play them all. It wasn't my decision. The coaches wanted to keep me fresh for the playoffs. "I'm not looking back, I'm looking forward. I had a great seven years in Detroit." Notes: Individual game tickets for all Devils regular-season home games will go on sale Monday, Sept. 29, at 9 a.m. at Continental Airlines Arena, Ticketmaster, Ticketmaster charge by phone and ticketmaster.com. Tickets are $90, $70, $52, $35 and $20. ... Tommy Albelin will be in camp as an unsigned free agent just in case the Devils' youth movement on defense fails. "No contract, promises, no commitment," Lamoriello said. "Let's see how the kids do. Tommy will stay with the organization in some capacity."