Number 30 is looming on the horizon. Martin Brodeur has been working his way back from an elbow injury, and will soon be practicing fully with the team. His return is imminent, and this spells bad news for all the other teams in the NHL, most of whom are already behind the Devils in the standings.
But this is also bad news for Scott Clemmensen, who has been starting most games in Brodeur's place. When Brodeur returns, the Devils will have a few options with Clemmensen and Kevin Weekes, and will have to decide which of the two stays, and which goes. It's unlikely that both remain as Brodeur's backup. But no matter the case, Clemmensen's days as a starter are apparently numbered.
Because he's put up better stats than Weekes thus far, it would appear sensible for the Devils to trade or release Weekes, while keeping Clemmensen as Brodeur's backup. However, I have ten reasons why the Devils should actually retain Weekes and trade Clemmensen.
The fact is, he's been very good as a starter. Not elite, but definitely very good. The Devils are in first place, and despite a lack of shutouts, Clemmensen has been very solid in goal.
He's finally been given his chance, and he's proving himself, so why not let him have more ice time elsewhere?
Some team is bound to give Clemmensen at least a tandem job. The Islanders, for example, are truly at a loss for goaltending with Rick DiPietro gone for the year.
Clemmensen has played well enough to earn a bigger role down the stretch, and it's not fair to him to keep him locked up behind the warrior. He should be dealt because he deserves it.
Fact is, Kevin Weekes is a very solid backup. His numbers are really not bad, and you don't exactly cringe when you send him out there. Considering that the Devils only need a backup at this point, Weekes is certainly more than adequate.
But how many teams need a backup goalie right now? Who exactly is jumping to sign Kevin Weekes? The Devils will have a very hard time trading him, and I don't think he'll have an easy time finding a job if he's released.
The Devils are really the best situation for him, and considering that he's done nothing to lose his role as backup goalie, it's really unfair to just cut him loose.
The fact is, we can let him go. Sure, he's been great, but trading him will not be a significant loss. With Brodeur back and VERY rested, the team will rarely go to the bench, and those scenarios, Weekes suffices.
The return will have a much greater impact. To someone else, Clemmensen is a starter. To the Devils, he will become a very minor part of the team. It's nice to be greatful to him and keep him around, but the team will benefit more from trading him, and as mentioned earlier, Clemmensen would benefit from being traded.
The Devils are (obviously) contenders, and will be looking to improve their team at the trade deadline. Their best trade option is arguably Jay Pandolfo, whose contract isn't too large and won't walk away after this year or next.
He's been relegated to benchwarming of late, but most teams will recognize him as a player who very recently was considered one of the top defensive forwards in the league.
Pandolfo may not be having a good season this year, but I'm certain that many teams would be willing to give him a second chance. They may, however, want the pot to be sweetened with more of a sure thing.
Well, that "sure thing" may be Clemmensen. Without taking on much more salary, a team would be able to acquire a good goalie, even if only for the stretch run.
The addition of Clemmensen to a Pandolfo trade would enable the Devils to improve their team further.
In a perfect world, the Devils would be able to keep both Clemmensen and Weekes. Actually, that world would not necessarily be perfect, but you get the idea.
The Devils have relied on their backups very little in the past few years. They don't need two of them. It may be tempting to keep Clemmer and Weekes on the roster, but trading one of them is truly the best option, and trading Clemmensen in particular would be the best option.
Let's face it, the main reason the Devils need a backup goalie is for what happened this season: an injury to Brodeur. Otherwise, the team could have a scarecrow fill that roster spot. They rarely use their backups.
But let's say, heaven forbid, Brodeur gets hurt again in the postseason. Despite Clemmensen's exploits this season, he's never played in a playoff game.
Weekes, conversely, has actually had playoff success. Devils fans will recall 2002, when he took over as the Hurricanes' goaltender midseries, defeating the Devils and leading them to the finals.
The fact is, Weekes may very well be the better option come playoff time. That is a very important factor to consider—if not THE most important factor—when choosing a backup for Brodeur.
Clemmensen has been a career backup. Not only that, but he's been a career BAD backup. The guy rarely got any playing time, and was signed this year to a minor-league contract. This year's rise to prominence came from nowhere.
Earlier in his career, no one would want Clemmensen. But now, he's a bona fide starting goaltender. For what the Devils paid, he could bring in a huge return.
His trade value is incredibly high. He's very cheap, and he's looking very good. Plus, he doesn't require a long-term commitment. If a team wants to ride the wave for the remainder of the season, they can do so very easily.
He needs to be traded now, before slipping back into obscurity. Once Brodeur returns, Clemmensen's value will slowly decrease. They can't trade him today, but they need to deal him once Brodeur has played a couple of games without complications.
While Clemmensen's value is peaking, Weekes' value isn't exactly thriving these days.
It's easy to keep Clemmensen because he's been better. But being better also means he'll garner a bigger return.
The Devils just made one minor move, dealing Sheldon Brookbank for a relatively unknown college player. Dealing Weekes would be of similar magnitude. The Devils would receive next to nothing for him.
Would that allow them to retain Clemmensen? Certainly. But the team would not improve very much, if at all. It would only clear a roster spot, and is that really worth keeping a backup goalie?
If the Devils don't trade Clemmensen, someone else will sign him in the offseason, and the Devils will get nothing for him.
Even if he's willing to accept a backup role, he'll demand more money in the offseason, money closer what a starter would make. The Devils won't resign him at that price, and someone else will be willing to take a gamble on him.
Simply put, the Devils need to trade him so that his value is retained until next year. He'd be a great rental for some team, but he's near-useless for the Devils, so they can easily swap him for a player under contract for next year. Better than nothing, which is what they'd get if they don't trade him.
Lest we forget, the man has sucked until now. He's having a great year, but that doesn't mean I'm willing to trust him in the future. Many players show up for a single career-year and then fade into oblivion.
Then they sign with the Islanders.
Clemmensen hasn't had a good career. Brodeur has. Clemmensen will never make a dent in his armor, and may never even match this season again. He's a risky keep if they don't have another starter, and he's completely pointless with Brodeur in net.
If the Devils can get almost anything for him, they'd come out ahead. Clemmensen may manage to keep this up, but the risk isn't worth it. He's already begun to slip in his past few games, and I fear he's beginning to remember who he is.
This magical ride won't last much longer, and the Devils should deal him before everyone else realizes that.