The league record holder in most major goaltending categories, the longtime New Jersey Devils netminder is in the final year of his current contract—one he negotiated himself, since Brodeur doesn't use an agent. This could be the final season in which hockey fans see Martin Brodeur in an NHL uniform—or maybe just in a Devils sweater.
Several things could happen to the three-time Stanley Cup champion and four-time Vezina Trophy winner, none of which is absolutely certain at this time.
Well, except for one, that is.
Brodeur might decide he hasn't had enough just yet, and could re-sign with New Jersey after the current season concludes. (His cap hit for 2011-12 is $5.2 million).
He'd like to win another Cup after backstopping the Devils to the first and only three titles they've ever claimed—although the odds of it happening aren't likely, considering the Devils' recent lack of playoff success.
He also needs just one playoff victory to achieve 100 postseason wins for his career, as he's been stuck on 99 wins since 2009.
Brodeur could choose to hang up his pads of his own volition next year and call it a career, his legacy assured with a Calder Trophy, two Olympic gold medals, three Stanley Cups, four Vezina Trophies and five Jennings Trophies.
The only thing he hasn't won is the Conn Smythe Trophy as NHL playoff MVP—but he probably would have had one in 2003, if it hadn't gone to opposing goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere when the Devils defeated Anaheim in the Stanley Cup Finals that spring.
Brodeur recorded three shutouts and four wins in that series, including a 3-0 victory in Game Seven at the Meadowlands.
Besides Team Canada, and the occasional NHL All-Star Jersey, Brodeur has always dressed in Devils red and white—but could that change?
At one point, there were thoughts that Brodeur might like to close out his career playing in his hometown of Montreal—but with Carey Price now set in the Habs net for years to come, that doesn't appear likely, as would the notion of Brodeur finishing his career as a part-time backup.
It's also highly doubtful that Devils GM Lou Lamoriello would ever trade away Brodeur, at any price, after all he's done for the organization.
Players who spend their entire NHL playing career with one team, like Detroit's Steve Yzerman or Brodeur's former Devils' teammate Ken Daneyko, are exceedingly rare. Brodeur should be one of them.
It's not 1994, Brodeur is not 22 years old anymore, and injuries have sidelined him in recent years.
He missed all but 31 games in 2008-09 after tearing his bicep, and played in just 56 contests last year after damaging his elbow. He's already missed several games this season with a shoulder injury.
He's slowing down a bit, and can't steal a game on his own anymore—he's also lost three key defensemen in front of him since 2004—but Brodeur is still more than serviceable in the net.
His workload hasn't helped, though, as Brodeur has played in 70 or more games in an NHL season no less than 12 times in his career. All that wear-and-tear has added up—and at 39, he's not getting any younger.
His injuries, if they continue, might ultimately force him off the ice for good.
It's not something anyone who loves the game wants to see—but there could be another NHL lockout coming next year when the current collective bargaining agreement expires in September.
If Brodeur misses another full season like he did in 2004-05, when the NHL campaign was canceled due to a labor dispute, it might signal his swan song, especially since he'll be 40 years old in 2012.
He may not have it in him to prepare for another long NHL haul after missing a whole season (again).
It worked for Dominik Hasek and Jaromir Jagr—go overseas, get away from the everyday NHL scrutiny, and just play hockey (although Jagr came back to the league this year at age 39, go figure).
Brodeur could perhaps extend his career for a few more seasons by playing in a less-intensive environment, but don't expect that to happen. He didn't play anywhere during the 2004-05 lockout, not even in Europe—and I can't see him uprooting his family several years later to continue his career in an unfamiliar environment across the Atlantic.
Besides, he's a competitor, and he undoubtedly wants to play in the best league in the world—which he's already in. He'll stay in the NHL until he calls it quits, whatever the reason may be. And when he finally does...
Love him or loathe him, call him individually spectacular or the product of a defensive system, there's no doubt a place is waiting for Brodeur at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto after his career is over.
With more than 625 regular-season wins, 116-plus shutouts, over 28,400 saves made and 1,130 games played (and counting), along with eight 40-win seasons—all NHL records—plus his three Stanley Cup rings, it's not a question of if Brodeur will be inducted into the Hall, but when.