Well, Marty, this is awkward.
The winningest goaltender of all-time’s foray into free agency isn’t the sexy bidding war he hoped it would be. As the market for goaltenders gets increasingly arid and Martin Brodeur’s list of potential destinations dwindles, it feels icky to see him flapping in the breeze. It reminds me of the scene in Jerry Maguire when a frazzled, freshly fired Jerry asks the entire office, “Who’s coming with me?” and listens to the pins drop.
Then again, Dorothy Boyd eventually crosses the line for Jerry. And there has to be a team out there willing to employ Brodeur. Here are five that make sense for Marty.
It’s a long shot since it involves moving to Winnipeg, but the Jets are the answer to the question, “Does Brodeur care more about playing than winning?” No team gives him a clearer path to starts. Brodeur posted the worst numbers of his career last season, but Ondrej Pavelec was the NHL’s most inferior “starting” netminder, ranking 45th among 51 qualified players in goals-against average (3.01) and 46th in save percentage (.901). Brodeur was 26th in GAA and his SP was the same as Pavelec’s. The Jets let their best goalie, Al Montoya, walk in free agency, so something has to give unless they’re comfortable rolling with Michael Hutchinson. If that something is a James Reimer trade instead of a Brodeur signing, swap Winnipeg out for Toronto on this list.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
The Jackets are a rising franchise and Sergei Bobrovsky is entrenched enough as the starter that they don’t have to worry about Brodeur casting too large of a shadow. Columbus would be smart to spell ‘Bob’ a bit more going forward after he missed time with a groin injury in 2013-14. Brodeur, even at 42, is an upgrade over backup Curtis McElhinney. The question, of course, is whether Marty is comfortable playing second fiddle.
The Bruins have already said they won’t simply hand the No. 2 job to Niklas Svedberg. And Chad Johnson showed last season how important that gig is, as Boston likes to rest Tuukka Rask for 25 or so games. If Brodeur accepts that workload, he’ll play for a winner, albeit he’ll be glued to the bench during the playoffs.
Yes, the Coyotes signed Devan Dubnyk to back up Mike Smith. But Dubnyk didn’t exactly perform like an NHLer last season. Arizona could do worse than Brodeur, and vice versa. Signing somewhere like this, though, would be more of a last resort if Brodeur realizes no team will ink him to be its starter or even its 1B.
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
The more time passes, the more a return to New Jersey makes sense. The Devils nabbed Scott Clemmensen, but the contract is two-way and they’re hoping Keith Kinkaid seizes the job as Cory Schneider’s backup. Even if Brodeur has gone on record saying he’s not inclined to return, the door is open ajar. And if no other team wants him, it’s hard to imagine Lou Lamiorello turning the franchise’s greatest player down. No matter how much it would piss off Schneider.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin