Where is Martin Brodeur headed in his NHL swan song?

Boston Bruins v New Jersey Devils

This free agent season will be like none we’ve seen before if only for the simple reason the winningest goalie in the history of the game is making himself available to the open market.

If the NHL were run by an advisory board of mentors and guidance counselors rather than businessmen, there would be a meeting to discuss how best to handle this potentially sticky situation.

Isn’t it best served to have Martin Brodeur one day retire in all his glory as a member of the New Jersey Devils? Is it really necessary for 42-year-old Brodeur, with his game in decline, to play another season? How does it look having a goaltending icon serving as a backup, playing just three or four times a month?

But this is big business and Brodeur wants to play another season even though it probably won’t be good enough for the Brodeur name. He’s the career leader with 688 regular season wins and 124 shutouts, all with New Jersey. It’s just going to look so strange seeing him in anything but Devils’ colors.

Brodeur is certainly entitled to keep playing. Who are we to suggest otherwise. But his numbers have been flat or trending in the wrong direction six of the past seven seasons.

And the problem is, there just aren’t many teams looking for goaltending help. At least not a goalie who fully expects to share the duties of being a No. 1 goalie.

Brodeur and the Devils will go their separate ways this summer. So what teams are out there that might seek his services and are willing to pay the few million dollars it would take to sign him?

By my count, that number might be as few as four teams. Washington is the best option as the Capitals might be interested in a goalie who can share duties with Braden Holtby. Same goes for Calgary and Karri Ramo. But maybe those teams would prefer to give 55-plus games to the young and improving incumbent.

How about Winnipeg and Ondrej Pavelec, who has struggled in recent seasons? Or the rival Islanders to form a nice tandem with Jaroslav Halak. (Remember, the Islanders don’t have a first-round pick in 2015 and can’t afford to be lousy.)

GMs of those teams have to ask themselves, is having Brodeur in your goaltending tandem a help (learn from the great) or a hindrance (intense pressure on the other guy)?

Sure, you can make a case that the goaltending picture in Vancouver, Edmonton and Buffalo looks sketchy, but those teams already have a tandem under contract and are prepared to go with them.

Teams such as Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, San Jose, Minnesota and Dallas could use a strong No. 2 man to push the envelope, but is Brodeur going to settle for 20 games and maybe a $mil and change? Those teams have salary cap issues.

With three Cups under his belt already, is winning another one important for Brodeur? Could he be happy playing 20 or so games and taking a big pay cut to push for a fourth Cup in Chicago or would he rather play 40ish games for rebuilding teams like Calgary or the Islanders?

Plus, where are key UFAs Ryan Miller and Jonas Hiller going to sign? That will have a domino effect on Brodeur.

When Brodeur wins his 12th game next season, he’ll reach No. 700 in career wins. That’s 149 more than the runner-up, Patrick Roy. His next shutout will put him 22 ahead of the former all-time leader Terry Sawchuk.

Brodeur’s place in hockey history is already established – he’s at the head of the class and nothing can besmirch his name.

What isn’t determined is where he’ll wind down his outstanding career and how happy he will be in a secondary role.

 

Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior editor and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blogFor more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazineFollow Brian Costello on Twitter at @BCostelloTHN