At the conclusion of the 2011-2012 season, one of—if not—the best goalies in NHL history will be at the end of a contract paying him $5.2 million a season.
Martin Brodeur’s New Jersey Devils have only managed to go as far as the second round of the playoffs since winning the Stanley Cup in 2002-2003, despite Brodeur winning four Vezina trophies in the last nine years. There are some that no longer consider Brodeur, at 39, to be among the elite goaltenders in the NHL.
Regardless, when Brodeur’s contract concludes at the end of this season, a few teams will take a flier, hoping that he has enough left to deliver a Cup to their squad.
If he signs, where will he go? Let's take a look at the probable, the possible, and the long shots.
Here are five teams that may take a run at signing the future hall of famer in the summer of 2012.
As it so happens, when Martin Brodeur’s contract is up, so too is current Devils’ backup Johan Hedberg's. Hedberg will be an unrestricted free agent after making $1.5 million this season. So, unless the Devils find a free-agent replacement or choose someone else in the system, they will be without an NHL goalie by the end of the season.
Zach Parise and defenseman Bryce Salvador will be the Devils’ only other notable free agents after the 2011-2012, and Parise may be searching for other options.
If the Devils are smart, they will try to resign Brodeur to a smaller contract, perhaps in the range of $2.5-$3 million per year.
The question is, will Brodeur settle for money like that or demand something similar to what he is currently paid?
The Devils could also let Brodeur walk, find a band-aid for the season and use some of the $17 million that will come off the books after the 2012-2013 season (from contracts for Patrik Elias, Dainius Zubrus and others) to pursue their goalie of the future.
If Brodeur wants to continue playing hockey next season, he will most likely look for a two- or three-year deal. One would hope that the Devils would buck up and pay him a decent salary.
There is a good chance that in the summer of 2012, Brodeur will either remain with the Devils or walk away from hockey.
Many fancy the idea of Martin Brodeur taking a pay cut and going to a Cup contender for one last shot of glory.
If that is where his head is next summer, Steve Yzerman and the Tampa Bay Lighting should be in pursuit.
After the 2011-2012 season, goaltender Dwayne Roloson’s $3.5-million contract will expire, and the Lightning will more than likely say goodbye to the durable veteran.
Yzerman will have to prioritize defensemen Pavel Kubina and Victor Hedman, as Kubina will become an unrestricted and Hedman a restricted free agent.
At the same time, if Yzerman is able to sew up one or both of those players, he will have money to land a quality netminder. That player may be Brodeur.
Yzerman certainly knows how capable Brodeur is, having played with him on Team Canada and against him in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1995.
This move may make sense, and the Lightning certainly have the talent and the cup credentials Brodeur may be looking for.
It seems that the Washington Capitals have had question marks in goal for the last three or four seasons entering the playoffs. Finally, this offseason they signed Tomas Vokoun to a one-year, $1.5-million contract.
Anything less than the Stanley Cup this season, and Vokoun will be out of a job come summertime.
This move may actually make more sense than for Tampa Bay (see previous slide), as Washington will finally be rid of Alexander Semin’s $6.7-million cap hit.
Should the Caps choose to, they could use a decent amount of money to sign a decent goaltender, and they may have the coin to give Brodeur an offer he cannot refuse.
The Caps will have some other offseason decisions to make, but they will still be a Cup contender heading into 2012-2013, and this may be a very intriguing option for Washington and for Brodeur.
Brian Burke’s Toronto Maple Leafs have two speculative goalies in James Reimer and Jonas Gustavsson. Gustavsson’s $1.35-million-a-year contract expires after the 2011-2012 season.
The Leafs will also have to figure out what to do about unrestricted free agents-to-be centre Mikhail Grabovski and defenseman John Michael-Liles. Odds are they will let Michael-Liles walk or offer him a significant pay cut. They also may give Grabovski a raise and make him a priority, as he is a fine player.
The case for Brodeur going to the Leafs may depend on how Toronto fares this season. If they dent the postseason and show an upward trend, Marty may hear what they have to say. If the Leafs are on the outside looking in, as many predict them to be, Toronto, as a destination, may be less than appealing.
This one is possible but unlikely. Brian Burke is capable of making some odd decisions and reshuffling his deck. Is it possible that he will free up cash for an aging pipe-master to help rebuild his team?
Martin Brodeur to the Florida Panthers? What?
I agree, it sounds crazy, but Florida general manager Dale Tallon is notorious for overplaying players, and in particular goalies.
You may recall that not too long ago in Chicago, Tallon had Nikolai Khabibulin ($6.75 million) and Cristobal Huet ($5.6 million) as his goaltending tandem. Nothing like having over a $12.3-million cap hit between the pipes.
Sure, Tallon has probably learned from this, but after this season Scott Clemmensen will become an unrestricted free agent, and with only Jose Theodore in the net, the Panthers will be looking for a goalie. If they are smart they will nab Pekka Rinne from the Nashville Predators, but should they miss out on him Marty may get a call.
It is not out of the realm of possibility that Tallon would throw a ludicrous contract to Brodeur to the tune of something like $15 million for three years. Florida does need to market hockey in Miami, and a name like Martin Brodeur would help.
I would hope that Brodeur would not take an early retirement in Florida but you never know. Sounds crazy, but if Florida overachieves and finds themselves in the playoff picture this season, expect Tallon to dial Brodeur’s number next summer.