Could the New Jersey Devils Actually Trade Martin Brodeur?

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Could the New Jersey Devils Actually Trade Martin Brodeur?
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The idea of Martin Brodeur as, say, a San Jose Shark or a Pittsburgh Penguin almost seems sacrilegious. But on Monday, Brodeur opened the door to exactly that possibility.

The legendary New Jersey Devils goalie has a no-trade clause, but he told the Star-Ledger’s Rick Chere that later in the year he might be willing to waive it if the right situation came up:

I hope it will never happen, but if there is a situation that could be really fun for me and really good for the Devils, why not? It’s not like I’m going to play 25 more years here. I’m not looking for that. I want to get back into the playoffs with this team and try to do something with this team. I would say 99 percent I’d say no right now. But for a little bit of time? Nobody is going to remember it, really. It wouldn’t be that big of a deal.

Nailing down Brodeur’s exact value in a trade is difficult to do, but two points in particular make moving him problematic.

First, he makes too much money. Second, it’s been a while since one of the all-time greats has even been particularly good.

We’ll start with the money, since it’s the less controversial angle. CapGeek.com has Brodeur in the final season of a two-year deal with an annual cap hit of $4.5 million. This is a stumbling block, but not a severe one. That’s because the Devils have the option of retaining salary in a trade, and because the closer the deadline gets, the smaller the portion of that money that is left to be paid.

The bigger problem is Brodeur’s performance.

The following chart has two lines. The blue line shows the NHL average save percentage since the 2004-05 lockout. After rising for years, it dipped briefly as rules were changed and particularly as more penalties were called. It’s been rising ever since.

The red line shows Brodeur’s save percentage over the same span, and while he was well above the average after the lockout, the three years since he turned 38 have seen a steep decline in performance.

How bad is that drop? Brodeur has faced 3,439 shots over the three seasons in question and posted a 0.905 save percentage, allowing 328 goals. An NHL goalie with a league-average save percentage (0.913) in that period would have allowed 299. So in the 144 games Brodeur played, he allowed 29 more goals than a guy who stopped pucks at a league-average rate would have.

This year has been even worse, with Brodeur posting a very poor 0.888 save percentage over seven games.

And yet, it’s impossible to shake the notion that an NHL team out there just might be interested in Brodeur’s services, whatever his recent record.

Gerry Thomas/Getty Images

Consider what happened last season with Miikka Kiprusoff. Kiprusoff—then 36—was younger than Brodeur is now, but he had been up-and-down in Calgary and was particularly bad in 2012-13, posting a 0.882 save percentage. Despite that, the Maple Leafs wanted some insurance in net and valued Kiprusoff highly enough to try and persuade him to accept a trade to Toronto.

The situations are close enough that it’s reasonable to expect the trade market would behave similarly. The Toronto Sun’s Mike Zeisberger gives us an idea of what Calgary could likely have commanded if Kiprusoff had been willing to accept a trade:

Kiprusoff’s reluctance to change addresses certainly cost Flames GM Jay Feaster some leverage on the trade market, where he reportedly had initially been seeking a first-round pick for the veteran goalie. There are suggestions that perhaps Kiprusoff could now be had for a mid-range prospect and a conditional second-round pick, one contingent on his new team inking him to an extension over the summer.

Brodeur would more obviously be a rental, with an extension with his new team unlikely. However, his willingness to join a contender will up his value. NHL general managers have also shown repeatedly that they value Stanley Cup experience; it’s difficult to think there wouldn’t be one or two who would jump at the chance to add Brodeur and his three Stanley Cup rings to their roster.

In short: Not only can the Devils trade Martin Brodeur, they can probably get a respectable package—something in the range of a first-round pick or a prospect and a lower pick—in trade for him.

And that kind of return just might be enough for the team to stomach seeing Brodeur play somewhere like Pittsburgh.

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