Coming into the post season most Devils fans were prepared to deal with Zach Parise becoming a free agent and all of the nerves and anxiousness associated with a franchise star possibly leaving. If that wasn't stressful enough, last Friday Devil fans were caught off guard when another player looked as if he was heading to test the free agent market: Martin Brodeur.
Once Brodeur hired an agent (he had negotiated his previous three contracts himself) there was a possibility, albeit a small one, he could end his career on a team other than the New Jersey Devils.
The hiring of an agent also threw the mainstream hockey media into frenzy about the Devils finances, how they were disrespecting an icon, etc. Only a few rationale thinking media members (namely Tom Gulitti, beat writer of the Record) realized that the delay in Brodeur's extension was likely a result of the organization seeing where it stood with Parise.
It seems plausible that knowing it was likely Parise was heading into unrestricted free agency, Brodeur hired an agent. Basically it seems as if Brodeur wanted someone else to field phone calls for him for a few hours while the Parise situation played itself out. You heard rumors that the Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Blackhawks were interested in Brodeur, but I don't believe that either the Devils or Brodeur believed that he sign with another franchise. Yet there was still that possibility that another team would blow him away with an offer.
It wouldn't be all bad for Brodeur as he would be able to get a sense of his market value. I think it was probably a good thing for him to gain a sense of value for his services. After seeing the new contracts given to unproven goaltenders like Ondrej Pavelec and Cory Schneider he probably felt based on his recent playoff success and his full body of work he was worth that much per year, if not more.
This morning Brodeur re-signed with New Jersey for two years with an annual contract value of $4.5MM, $9MM in total. Kevin has some intial thoughts on this signing below.
Looking at it purely based on potential production you can certainly argue the financial wisdom of this deal. Being stuck with that cap hit in a second year should Brodeur retire could be problematic too. Analyzing the decreasing even strength save percentages and other recent statistical evaluations probably doesn't justify his salary/cap hit.
However, being a sports franchise involves decisions based on loyalty and other intangible factors. This is Martin Brodeur. He has a value to this franchise that is nearly impossible to measure and it would have been criminal for him to end his career with any other team. It's happened before with other athletes (Joe Namath, Willie Mays, Brett Favre, etc.) but Brodeur, you can argue, is more important to his franchise than any of those other athletes were and his loss would have been a crushing blow to the morale of the fan base.
At the time of writing Parise remains unsigned with the reported possibility of a decision to come later today. As fans, we've seen other premium free agents leave and I can accept Parise moving on. Brodeur would have been different.
Perhaps it's some sort of a safety blanket or a connection to watching him back when I was in grade school that makes me simply not ready to contemplate watching the New Jersey Devils without Marty in net. Maybe it was seeing him raise his game in the second half of the year and the playoffs that reminded me of how great he can be on any given night. Or could it just be how iconic he is and how a franchise always fighting an uphill battle for respect could not afford to face the public backlash should he have left. Whatever it is, I am glad he is back hopefully you are too.
What are your thoughts on Brodeur's return? Are you that concerned about a second year? Did you think he might sign anywhere else? Thanks for reading and sound off below.