Martin Brodeur's Options in NHL Free Agency Remain Limited; Retirement Coming?

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Martin Brodeur's Options in NHL Free Agency Remain Limited; Retirement Coming?
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

With a week remaining in July, Martin Brodeur remains without an NHL home.

If he was holding out hope at a return to New Jersey for the 2014-15 season, Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello just about shut the door on that possibility on Tuesday. 

From Rich Chere of The Star-Ledger:

But don’t expect the Devils to bring goaltender Martin Brodeur to training camp— with or without a contract.

Lamoriello said he is not considering another veteran goalie. The team signed veteran Scott Clemmensen to a two-way contract earlier this month.

“At this point I don’t think so,” he said.

So what are the options for the 42-year-old goaltender, who says he would like to either be a backup for a Stanley Cup-contending team or play regularly on a lesser team?

With the New Jersey Devils unwilling to bring back the future Hall of Famer, let's look at the other 29 teams to find out if there are any viable candidates.

 

Brian Babineau/Getty Images

Tier 1: The Cup Contenders

Teams: Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, St. Louis Blues, Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks

Breakdown: As Cup contenders, none of these teams have a need for a goaltender with a .901 save percentage the past two seasons. All seven clubs already have two goaltenders under contract, something that doesn't preclude them from signing Brodeur, although it makes it unlikely. 

The one team in this group that looks most in need of a veteran backup is the Bruins, who have Vezina Trophy winner Tuukka Rask entrenched as the No. 1 and rookie Niklas Svedberg penciled in as the backup. The 24-year-old Svedberg had a .910 save percentage in 45 AHL games last season with Providence, so Brodeur could actually be an upgrade.

But with Svedberg on a one-way contract, the Bruins have expressed no interest in Brodeur, according to Joe Haggerty of CSN New England. With the Bruins over the cap and Reilly Smith and Torey Krug unsigned, it's not a financially viable option, either.

 

Tier 2: Playoff-Caliber Teams

Teams: New York Rangers, Minnesota Wild, Tampa Bay Lightning, Dallas Stars, Montreal Canadiens, Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Islanders

Andy Marlin/Getty Images

Breakdown: There's not much of a difference between the best teams in this group and the worst teams in the first group, which also means they aren't desperate for a fading backup. That's not entirely true: The Lightning added Evgeni Nabokov to back up Ben Bishop. But just about all of these teams have made their goaltending beds already.

The one intriguing team in this group is the one with the most potential goaltenders already signed: the Wild.

Niklas Backstrom, Josh Harding and Darcy Kuemper (an RFA right now) will all be under contract for next season. Backstrom's .899 save percentage is one of the few that was worse than Brodeur's last season, and the 36-year-old also missed 33 games with a strained abdominal muscle.

Harding suffers from multiple sclerosis and missed 53 games last season because of his illness. That opened the door for Kuemper, who went 12-8-4 with a .915 save percentage in his first taste of the NHL.

There's enough health issues and inexperience to make it seem like Brodeur, just like Ilya Bryzgalov at the end of last year, could make sense.

Last week, however, Michael Russo of the Star Tribune wrote that the Wild will likely go into training camp with those three goalies battling for two spots.

 

Graig Abel/Getty Images

Tier 3: Unlikely Playoff Teams and Definitely Not Playoff Teams

Teams: Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Winnipeg Jets, Ottawa Senators, Arizona Coyotes, Nashville Predators, Florida Panthers, Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Buffalo Sabres

Breakdown: The Leafs expressed honest-to-goodness, genuine interest in Brodeur before the start of free agency, but the two sides have not reached an agreement on a deal. They have Jonathan Bernier as their No. 1, but backup James Reimer is headed for salary arbitration, and general manager Dave Nonis has said he wouldn't be against trading him.

With Reimer bound for UFA status after the 2014-15 season, he will only be eligible for a one-year deal in arbitration. It's possible the Leafs could deal Reimer once he is awarded a contract or make a move before arbitration begins, freeing a space for Brodeur to serve as Bernier's backup.

No matter the tier, the options are limited and mostly unappealing for Brodeur. It's great that he loves to play the game after everything he has accomplished, but retirement or Toronto look to be the most realistic options for the once-great goaltender.

 

Dave Lozo covers the NHL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter: @DaveLozo.

All statistics via NHL.com and Extra Skater. Contract information courtesy of CapGeek.com.

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