When Devils winger Ilya Kovalchuk walked away from 12 years and $77 million remaining on his contract, the loss of a skilled forward could have given restricted free agent Adam Henrique more leverage in his own negotiations.

“I should just ask for the rest of his contract,” Henrique joked in a conversation today with The Star-Ledger.

“I never really looked at it as giving me more power or anything like that. We’re just trying to get something fair for myself and for the team. It obviously opens up a little more cap space.”

Both Henrique, 23, and Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello said a new deal could be finalized by the end of this week.

“Could be. It’s close. It’s coming along well,” Henrique confirmed. “There is no huge rush or deadline, so we’re just going at it a day at a time.”

When the free agency signing period opened two weeks ago, there was the possibility of another club trying to sign Henrique to an offer sheet. The Devils would have matched, but they still had Kovalchuk on their books and might have been vulnerable to a lucrative offer.

But there was no offer sheet forthcoming.

“I’m not overly surprised. A lot of teams made a lot of moves,” Henrique reasoned. “I guess maybe the teams that were in position to do that signed guys and made moves. It wasn’t something I was looking for and it was out of my control. Whatever would have happened, this is where I want to be.”

And there is no doubt the Devils need him. Whether it is at center or on the wing, Henrique is optimistic about the 2013-14 season for the team and himself.

Last season, as the Devils missed the playoffs, Henrique scored 16 points (11 goals, five assists) in 42 games. He started the lockout-shortened season in the minors after Nov. 29 surgery for ulnar collateral ligament damage in his left thumb suffered in a Nov.25 AHL game in Atlantic City.

“Last year was a bit of a different year, coming off the injury. The whole team kind of went through a dry spell,” Henrique reflected.

Does he see himself as one of those players who’ll have to pick up the scoring slack following Kovalchuk’s departure?

“I haven’t really thought about more pressure on me. Maybe there is more opportunity,” Henrique said. “I want to make sure I do everything I possibly can to come ready for the season. I want to have a great year and I want to get the team back in the playoffs and back in the running. We were there two years ago. This past season was tough.”