Over his career, Brodeur became the first goalie ever to hit 600 wins (he currently has 647), the all-time leader in shutouts and the owner of half of the other goalie records out there.
Unfortunately, though he might not play like it at times, Brodeur is technically mortal. As such, he is destined to age. That's a very disappointing fact for Devils fans.
It appears that the end of Marty's wonderful career is coming to a close: His contract will end after this season, at which point he'll be 40.
And while many fans might be content to let him retire a Devil, as one of the most dominant goalies of all time, indications continue to arise that Brodeur will be looking to return next summer.
Talking to The New York Post, Brodeur had this to say about his future:
I'm having fun. I feel differently about it now than I did last summer, or at the start of the season. It's not 100% but I'm definitely leaning toward coming back next year.
There's a bigger chance now than before. A few people I've spoken to have told me that if you think you still have that little flame, keep it going, because once it's out, it's out.
That is not exactly what a team looking to build for the future wants to hear. That's why, as painful as it is to say, the Devils cannot bring Marty back next season.
Look at that group of players up there. What I see is four players (plus Larry Robinson) who comprised one of the best franchises in the game for a brief period. I also see four players who are ready to be out of the game, to be retired and to have their numbers hanging from the rafters.
There's no doubt Scott Stevens and Rob Niedermayer were superb, but they eventually had to end their careers. That's where Brodeur's at now.
He is more a piece of history than he is an asset to the team at this point. While it's fun, emotional and exciting every time he skates out there for a start, there comes a time when team value outweighs sentimental value in importance, and that time is now.
He's showing flashes of his old self when he's playing well, but most of the time, he's just a shadow of his younger, quicker past.
I can't stress enough just how much I love Marty, but he's clearly been slipping the past couple seasons.
In 2009-10, he had a great bounce-back year after missing lots of time with an injury. Starting 77 games, he went 45-25-6 with a .916 save percentage and 2.24 goals-against average.
Last year, those numbers all got worse: He started just 53 games, going 23-26-3—his first losing season ever—with a .903 save percentage and 2.45 goals-against average.
And now, the numbers continue to decline: Though he's on the right side of .500 once more, he's 22-17-3 in 45 games while earning a .902 save percentage and a 2.54 goals-against average.
Over those seasons, his reflexes slowed and his game suffered. Lately, he's compensated by playing more of a butterfly style (rather than his traditional stand-up style of goaltending) and it's helping to some extent, but it's clearly a last-ditch move to keep his career going.
It's commendable that he's attempting to evolve his game, but at a certain point, it's time to just hang up the skates. Especially when starting means taking time from someone else.
Speaking of which...
That's Jeff Frazee up there.
Devils fans likely know the name, as Frazee has been in the Devils system for years. He was drafted in the second round of the 2005 draft. Since then, he hasn't done much.
His average numbers in the minors don't suggest he's capable of shouldering an NHL job, but he's also never been given much of a chance.
The reason he's never received much of a chance is the same reason everyone else hasn't received much of a chance: Marty's a workhorse.
Since 1999, he's led goalies in games played six times. For a 10-season stretch, he played between 70 and 78 games every year. Even now, when he's nearing the end of his career, he's still got more than twice as many starts as backup Johan Hedberg (Marty's 45 compared to Hedberg's 20).
It makes sense that the Devils would want their best available goalie to start on any given day, but it also makes sense that, at some point, the younger goalies get a chance to step up.
The fact that a goalie struggles in the AHL doesn't necessarily mean he can't make it at the NHL level. In the NHL, he'd have a better defense in front of him, and better offense helping him.
But Frazee, along with all the other Devils' goalie prospects over the years, hasn't received that chance. The result is that there is no one in line to take over the starting job.
The Devils have a lot of free agents to re-sign after this season.
Zach Parise is the most notable, and he'll certainly require the largest salary to stay, but it goes far beyond him.
Alexei Ponikarovsky, Ryan Carter, Brad Mills, Steve Bernier, Cam Janssen, Petr Sykora, Bryce Salvador, Brodeur and Hedberg are all unrestricted free agents at season's end. Additionally, Mark Fayne and Matt Taormina will be restricted free agents.
On top of all of those players, they'll lose much of the rest of their roster the following season. Patrik Elias, Dainius Zubrus, Travis Zajac, David Clarkson, Marek Zidlicky, Eric Boulton, Jacob Josefson, Mattias Tedenby and Frazee will all come off the books.
Many of those players will likely re-sign for similar contracts, but many are also due raises. Depending on how much Brodeur wants next season, his presence could make things very difficult.
Sure, he could sign for a league-minimum salary, figuring he's made tens of millions of dollars over the years, but what if he wants more? This year, he's making $5.2 million. Presumably, he won't be seeking that much, but what if he does?
What if it's $4 million? $3.5 million? How much is too much for someone whose contribution to the team doesn't come on the ice?
I'd love to see Marty re-sign with the Devils for a one- or two-year contract for around a million, figuring he'd get a few dozen starts over that time (mostly against the Canadiens), while mentoring whoever the reins are handed over to.
That doesn't seem like a likely scenario, though. Marty's always been a starter, and there's no indication he's looking to sit most games. He's also left a lot of money on the table over the years to stay with the Devils, and may feel he's owed something by the franchise he's given so much to.
It would be really awesome if the Devils and Brodeur could come together and find a way to keep him on the team for a year or two, with a minimal cap hit.
If they can't work out something along those lines, though, they need to let Marty walk. It's hard to write those words, but it's the truth; for the level of play he's providing and considering his age, anything more than a severe cut in salary and playing time will hurt the team more than it helps.