So Martin Brodeur goes out and pitches a shutout mere days after acknowledging he wouldn’t stand in the way of a trade if the New Jersey Devils are out of the playoff picture at the trade deadline. Consider the skids greased.
After 20 seasons with the team, Brodeur maintains he would never ask for a trade from the Devils, but admitted he would entertain the possibility if GM Lou Lamoriello came to him with a proposed deal to a contender. “Nobody is going to remember it,” Brodeur told Rich Chere of the Star-Ledger. “It really wouldn’t be a big deal.”
Not sure what’s more depressing – that Brodeur thinks it wouldn’t be a big deal or that he’s probably right. We’ve become accustomed to seeing players traded or signing with other teams during their careers. That reality in the hockey world was driven home more than 25 years ago when Wayne Gretzky was dealt to the Los Angeles Kings. Ever since then, whenever talk of a player moving has surfaced, we’ve heard executives and players say, “If Wayne Gretzky can get traded, anyone can.”
And all that is true. But still, the idea of Brodeur playing in anything but a Devils sweater seems preposterous. How many times has he had an opportunity to leave, only to take the hometown discount to stay with the franchise where he has played his entire career? Perhaps Brodeur is right and we wouldn’t have lasting memories of Brodeur finishing his career with the Pittsburgh Penguins or the New York Islanders or the Tampa Bay Lightning or the Vancouver Canucks. But there would always be that final line in Brodeur’s stat package that would forever remind us he ended his career somewhere else.
Perhaps it’s a misplaced sense of sentimentality that makes the prospect of Brodeur moving so difficult to stomach, but here’s a guy who grew with this franchise and was a key contributor in making it a perennial Stanley Cup contender. Now that the lean times have officially begun for the Devils, is it really worth dealing a living legend and future Hall of Famer for the second- or third-round pick they’ll get in return? (There’s no way the Devils will be able to fetch a first-rounder to replace the one they’ll lose this year when the NHL chose to beat them down for negotiating a contract with Ilya Kovalchuk.)
But what makes the prospect of Brodeur moving preposterous is that it’s so unnecessary. Gretzky and Mark Messier had to be part of the dismantling of the Edmonton Oilers dynasty because the team could no longer afford to keep them. Patrick Roy moved because he pledged he would never play another game for the Montreal Canadiens. Ray Bourque was traded to the Colorado Avalanche for humanitarian reasons and a chance to win the Stanley Cup that had eluded him throughout his career. Guy Lafleur was never traded, but came back to play three years after he retired, presumably to take care of some unfinished business.
But none of that applies to Brodeur. The Devils just got a new owner and are more stable financially than they’ve been in years. Brodeur has won three Stanley Cups with the Devils and has records for victories and shutouts that might never be broken. He and Lamoriello have had a father-son type of relationship for the better part of two decades.
And by staying with the Devils, Brodeur would have the opportunity to join a rather exclusive club. Of the 254 men who played their careers in North America – Valeri Kharlamov, Vladislav Tretiak and the woman inductees were not included – 59 of them wore only one team’s uniform. But of the 57 who played their entire careers during the post-expansion era, only 11 of them did so with the same franchise. (Bill Barber, Mike Bossy, Bob Clarke, Ken Dryden, Bob Gainey, Mario Lemieux, Gilbert Perreault, Denis Potvin, Joe Sakic and Steve Yzerman are the players, in case you were wondering.)
So if Brodeur is talking about the possibility of moving at the deadline, there’s a pretty good chance we’re looking at his last season – which gives us a potential Hall of Fame class in 2017 made up of Brodeur, Teemu Selanne and Jaromir Jagr. Should that happen, Lidstrom should become the 12th Hall of Famer to play for the same team and Brodeur the 13th.
The Devils aren’t quite completely out of the playoff picture yet, but it doesn’t look good, even with them playing in the woeful Metropolitan Division. We can only hope that as the Devils season slips away, Lamoriello resists any temptation to have that trade conversation with Brodeur.