Heading into July 1st in 2012, the New Jersey Devils face uncertainty in a position where they have been stable for the last 18 years. Coming up, we’ll take a look at the two unrestricted free agents of New Jersey camping out in the crease.
Goaltenders: Since 1994, the last line of defense for New Jersey has been Martin Brodeur. Although a return is anticipated, if a contract is not signed by July 1st, it will be the first time Brodeur would be considered an unrestricted free agent. Brodeur’s last two contracts came during the season and surprisingly, were negotiated by himself without the aid of an agent. The all time wins leader played in 59 games in 2011-2012 after playing in 56 in 2010-2011. Clearly, the days of Brodeur playing 70 games in a season are over.
Brodeur went 31-21-4 in his games, posting a .908 save percentage and a 2.41 goals against average. At times, Brodeur’s play in the regular season could have been considered shaky but the 40 year old puck stopper certainly made up for it in the playoffs. In a tough Game 3 in the first round against the Panthers, Brodeur let in three goals which probably should have been stopped, leading to being pulled as the Panthers would win by virtue of four unanswered goals 4-3. In classic Brodeur fashion, Marty bounced back in a big way with a 4-0 shutout win in Game 4, all the while many Devils fans were calling for him to sit for Game 4. From that point on, Brodeur’s play in the playoffs was crucial in ousting the rival Flyers and Rangers en route to winning the Eastern Conference. Broduer numbers for the playoffs looked much better going 14-9 in 24 games with a .917 save percentage and a 2.12 goals against average.
Coming off a six year contract with a cap hit of $5.2M, it is tough to say how much Brodeur is worth along with how much he will get at this point. Based on age, his play last year and realistic expectations, a raise is just about out of the question. Brodeur has took less money to win before with his last contract, it is expected he does again. The only matter is how much less. I think Brodeur still has two seasons left in him, just 44 wins away from 700 in a career. At this point, I think it will be only one year contracts for Brodeur. I don’t think we will see anything more expensive than a one year, $4M contract. Then again, the contract could go as low as Lou and Marty are willing.
For Johan Hedberg, the Swede has been the perfect backup goalie the previous two seasons. Playing in 27 games, Hedberg posted a .918 save percentage and a goals against average of 17-7-2 in the 2011-2012 season. With starts spanning weeks at times, ‘Moose’ was able to look fresh in nearly every appearance. At 39 years old, the duo of Marty and Moose was the oldest in the NHL a combined 79 years old. Having a backup goaltender who can step in and play 30 games while putting up starter numbers is invaluable. Brodeur looked much stronger in the playoffs than years past, perhaps cutting into the regular season word load made a difference.
It is obvious how much the players appreciate Hedberg judging by quotes and quips that come with following the team for ten months. After Josh Harding re-signed with the Wild last week, I think the chances of having Moose return increase greatly. Harding is a solid 1B goalie who has split time, playing a backup role with Nicklas Backstrom as the starter. It was conceivable to see Harding come to New Jersey, play behind Brodeur for a year and then become the hopeful long term starter but now that is out of the question.
As stated earlier, Hedberg is an accountable backup goalie who has been a great value to the Devils, costing only $1.25M last season. I would happily take another season of the Marty and Moose combination giving goaltending prospects Keith Kinkaid, Scott Wedgewood, and Maxime Clermont more time to develop.