It's all extra disappointing considering how close the Devils got to being league champions last year. They clearly had a team that was capable of competing, and they just had to keep it together.
Well, while the most important piece is noticeably absent, Devils management did a fairly good job of securing the rest of the Devils who came off the books this year. They quickly scooped up their playoff-hero fourth-liners, kept Peter Harrold on defense, re-upped surprise impact D-man Bryce Salvador and, most notably, re-signed both of last season's goalies.
Normally, that wouldn't be too shocking. A team looks for continuity, after all. But given that Johan Hedberg, at 39 years old, is the younger of the two goalies who the Devils just signed to two-year deals is a bit frightening. I'd think it will give the Devils the oldest goalie tandem ever by a significant margin.
However, once looking past the age of the tenders, it's actually a smart move by Lou Lamoriello, the Devils GM.
The media made it hard to forget that Brodeur's contract ended after this past season, and the idea of who would play once he was gone was a thought that fans and players alike were confronted with.
The Devils do have some promising looking prospects—personally, I think Scott Wedgewood looks really good—but they're all still very much prospects, and a long way away from being able to contend at an NHL level.
There was always the possibility of signing a free-agent goalie or trading for one, but those options quickly evaporated. Corey Schneider, an RFA, re-signed with the Canucks. Tuukka Rask stayed with his Bruins. Jonathan Quick signed a massive, decade-long extension and Carey Price got a nice payday too, so neither of them will be available anytime soon.
There are still some desirable prospects out there (Jonathan Bernier and Jhonas Enroth, to name a couple), but those would require trades, and the Devils are pretty short on expendable assets right now. Not to mention that there's been no real indication that Bernier or Enroth will be dealt anytime soon.
The only goalies who are still being talked about right now seem to be Tim Thomas and Roberto Luongo, but that's the last thing the Devils would need. Both carry extreme cap hits, both have some seriously undesirable personality traits and neither would stick around for more than a few years (that's if Tim Thomas even showed up at all).
No, what the Devils wanted was an already-somewhat-proven, young, talented goalie who could step in and take a significant workload. Essentially, they wanted Schneider or Rask.
The problem is that goalies are highly-coveted in this league, and the Devils just weren't going to get them. So with that in mind, the return of Brodeur makes a great deal of sense.
Brodeur reminded naysayers why he's called the best goalie of all time by some with his performance throughout the playoffs. It was his first superb postseason play in many years, and showed fans that he's still capable of playing like his old self.
Obviously, Brodeur isn't going to take on as many games as he did earlier in his career. He started just 59 games this past season, with 31 wins. Those are good numbers for a goalie, but not for a guy who led the league in starts six times and in wins nine times.
However, the numbers are indicative of the lesser role he's now comfortable playing, and it's actually reassuring to see that he can perform well, even when his role on the team is reduced.
Yes, there are a million sentimental reasons to keep Brodeur at any cost, but this seems like the best option that the Devils realistically have. The only valuable, tradable players they have are Adam Henrique, Adam Larsson, Travis Zajac, Patrik Elias and David Clarkson.
The Devils would most certainly not part with almost all of them (I'm not really sure about Clarkson), but even Clarkson wouldn't fetch the sort of goalie the Devils are looking for.
No, right now, the Devils simply have to wait. It's what they did all season, seeing if an opportunity to pick up Brodeur's successor might spring up, and they'll just have to keep doing that. Brodeur can hang on at least another year, and Moose has always been superb in a supporting role.
It's really nice to think that Brodeur will be able to end his career as a Devil, but it's always impressive to think that he is really earning his position on the team. No matter what you think of his talent, he was the best option available and his presence can only help the team.