Martin Brodeur is going, going…well, not gone. Not yet, anyway. Soon, though, perhaps.
It could happen, now more so than at any other time in his long career.
Some shockwaves radiated outward from New Jersey earlier this week when it was revealed at nj.com that the 40-year old netminder had hired an agent in Pat Brisson. Brodeur has usually handled contract negotiations himself with Devils GM Lou Lamoriello, with the goaltender oftentimes taking less money to stay in perennially competitive New Jersey.
Circumstances, though, are somewhat different than they have been in the past.
Brodeur, who made over $5 million last season according to capgeek.com, will be an unrestricted free agent come tomorrow, after backstopping the Devils within two wins of a fourth Stanley Cup earlier this month and their longest playoff chase in nine years when they last claimed a crown.
Although many might have thought he’d hang up his skates when the 2011-12 campaign concluded, No. 30 seems to have been rejuvenated by the Devils’ playoff run, in which they dispatched Florida, Philadelphia and the rival Rangers before falling to Los Angeles in the final.
The second point is that the Devils want/need to also re-sign forward Zach Parise, also an UFA who could command as much as or more than $8 million a season on the open market. Teams like the Detroit Red Wings, with a championship background and cash to spare, have been salivating at the chance to sign the Minnesota-born scorer, including possibly his hometown-albeit-average Minnesota Wild.
Another problem is that, despite the Devils’ run to the 2012 Eastern Conference championship that included 11 sold-out home playoff games at the Prudential Center this spring, the team has been strapped financially. The NHL already floated them an $80 million loan earlier this season, and majority owner Jeff Vanderbeek had difficulty in unloading minority owners Ray Chambers and Mike Gilfillan.
The 15-year, $100 million contract inked by Ilya Kovalchuk in 2011 surely hasn’t helped the Devils’ coffers, either, and either Parise or Brodeur—or even both—will likely be departing the Garden State for greener pastures if indeed there isn’t enough money to sign them.
Last, but perhaps not least, there has always been speculation that Brodeur would opt to finish his career in his native Montreal if he didn’t remain a career Devil. Given his father’s battle with a brain tumor earlier this year, as reported in the Montreal Gazette, the thought of playing close to home has to be appealing to the man who owns practically every major goaltending record in NHL history.
It does makes you wonder, though, what message the struggling Canadiens would send to incumbent Carey Price to have him split chores with Brodeur the next winter or two, especially after shuttling Jaroslav Halak off to St. Louis a couple of seasons ago. Les Habitants would probably jump at the chance to sign a successful hometown hero, however, current starter notwithstanding.
Brodeur, though, has been a fixture with the Devils since 1994 and has been the face of the franchise for almost as long. He’s worn red and black (and even green) for almost two decades solid.
The time is coming, though, when he will no longer be between the pipes for New Jersey’s only major professional sports team (the Nets are gone, and the Giants and Jets don’t count as they still ally themselves with New York).
That could take place as soon as this week, if he wants too much and the team doesn’t have the wherewithal to sign him, despite what he’s done for it in the past, all the way back to the Meadowlands and three Stanley Cup championships.
The organization has no NHL-proven goaltenders currently signed, probably won’t bring back 39-year-old Johan Hedberg and hasn’t seen any other netminder play a significant amount of time since Scott Clemmensen won 25 games while subbing for an injured Brodeur in 2008-09.
The goaltending kids in the Devils system, like Keith Kinkaid, need to develop at the NHL level, and sooner rather than later. It’s something that’s been said the last several years but even more so now that Brodeur is in the twilight of his own storied tenure.
It would be a shame if the Devils couldn’t retain his services for one last year or two because of contract hassles and a lack of cash, but anything is possible. Wayne Gretzky could tell you that.
Will Brodeur end his pro career somewhere else other than with the only NHL team he’s ever known? Starting Sunday, we’ll find out for sure.
The end could be very near—or not.