Martin Brodeur had a good look around the NHL free-agent market, thanks to the uncertain financial situation of the New Jersey Devils, and decided to stay with the only professional team he's known.
But the 40-year-old goaltender had to take a large pay cut to do so, not even a month after leading the Devils to the Stanley Cup final. Brodeur agreed to a two-year contract early Monday with the Devils for $4.5-million (all currency U.S.) per year, a cut of $700,000 from the $5.2-million he made last season.
Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello followed the Brodeur signing by getting his backup goaltender, Johan Hedberg, to agree to a two-year contract for $1.4-million per year. That leaves the Devils with the oldest tandem in the NHL, as Hedberg turned 39 two months ago.
Brodeur said in the end he simply could not envision himself playing for another NHL team despite the changes in the roster that lie ahead for the Devils because of their finances. However, he did force Lamoriello to come up with a two-year offer because teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Blackhawks offered him one.
"This is all I know. To be honest, I wasn't sure I'd be ready to start my life somewhere else," Brodeur told The Star-Ledger newspaper in New Jersey. "I wanted to finish my career here, to a certain extent."
Brodeur also said he is hopeful forward Zach Parise, the big prize in the free-agent derby, will remain with the Devils as well. Parise is entertaining offers from other NHL teams, including the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, Minnesota Wild and Detroit Red Wings at his agent's office in Mississauga, Ont. He is expected to make his decision Monday.
Brodeur's new salary puts him in a tie for 10th place among NHL goaltenders with Rick DiPietro of the New York Islanders and Jonas Hiller of the Anaheim Ducks. At present, the highest paid goaltender is Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators, who will make $7-million next season. While Rinne is highly regarded, he has yet to earn any of the credentials of Brodeur (three Stanley Cups).
Also ahead of Brodeur are Henrik Lundqvist ($6.9-million) of the New York Rangers, who were eliminated from the playoffs by the Devils thanks to Brodeur's play, and Roberto Luongo ($6.7-million), who lost his No. 1 job with the Vancouver Canucks to Cory Schneider. There is also Ilya Bryzgalov of the Philadelphia Flyers, who made $10-million last season in the first year of a nine-year deal worth $51-million. His salary in the front-loaded contract drops to $6.5-million this fall. Bryzgalov's struggles last season were well-documented.
However, it's never been about the money for Brodeur. He consistently took contracts below market value from Lamoriello because the team, at least in the early and middle years of his career, was a Stanley Cup contender.
Brodeur decided to try the free-agent market for the first time because the Devils' financial woes under co-owner Jeff Vanderbeek are so severe the team is going to lose several players, topped by forward Zach Parise. After negotiating his own contracts for years, Brodeur hired agent Pat Brisson and told him to solicit offers.
But by the end of the first day of the free-agent market, after Lamoriello came up with an offer Brodeur could accept, he decided he would rather finish his career as a Devil amid the uncertain ownership situation than go elsewhere.
Brodeur's signing also affected the Luongo sweepstakes. Canucks GM Mike Gillis is still not ready to lower his trade demands on the Maple Leafs and Florida Panthers, the two major suitors, and Brodeur's signing gives him at least a little leverage for now. But in the end, it is not likely Gillis will be able to reap a huge return for a 33-year-old goaltender with a huge contract.
It is expected by the end of Monday that Parise and the Devils' other notable free agent, defenceman Bryce Salvador, will sign with other teams. On Sunday, forwards Alexei Ponikarovsky (Winnipeg Jets) and Eric Boulton (New York Islanders) joined new employers.