After letting the dust settle on Ilya Kovalchuk’s “retirement” and reading different stories and opinions, I have made some conclusions.
First, both team and player are better off with Kovalchuk moving on. The Devils no longer have to deal with Kovy’s heavily front-loaded contract and cap hit, and Ilya can make huge dollars in the KHL and be with his family.
Secondly, although the Devils now find themselves with cap space, finding someone to replace the holes left by Kovalchuk and Zach Parise last summer is a whole new challenge on its own.
GM Lou Lamiorello has limited options in terms of what he can do to improve his hockey club. The free agent market has all but dried up unless you want to overpay for one of Jaromir Jagr or Brendan Morrow, or take a chance on guys like Damien Brunner, Mikhail Grabovski or Brad Boyes. All of these players would be nice additions, however none will bring nearly as much to the table offensively as Kovalchuk did.
Additionally, the trade market has lost some steam, as many teams have made their big moves and are now waiting for training camp to start before re-evaluating and tweaking their rosters. This makes life tough on Uncle Lou, since acquiring a high-scoring forward in a tapped out and idle market can be somewhat of a challenge. Obviously, by saying “somewhat of a challenge” I mean damn near impossible, especially with the prospect pool (or lack thereof) that the Devils have to dangle as trade bait. The only young players that will bring in any significant return are Adam Henrique, Andrei Loktionov and Adam Larsson. Loktionov might be movable if packaged, but Henrique and Larsson are the future in Newark and it would take a pretty penny to pry them fro Lamiorello’s fingers.
So, what do the Devils do? Amidst all this talk of Kovalchuk, people seemed to forget that New Jersey has 2 starting goaltenders. One has stopped more rubber than any goaltender in the last 5 years and one has stopped more than any goaltender of all time. This makes for a problem that any GM would love to have.
After crunching some numbers, I compared both goalies’ stats to those of other elite goalies of the last 5 years. The results are in order as follows:
1. Cory Schneider, 2.20
2. Henrik Lundqvist, 2.24
3. Jonathan Quick, 2.31
4. Antti Niemi, 2.34
T4. Martin Brodeur, 2.34
6. Pekka Rinne, 2.36
7. Roberto Luongo, 2.38
8. *Corey Crawford, 2.39
9. Marc-Andre Fleury, 2.49
10. Ryan Miller, 2.51
11. Carey Price, 2.56
1. Cory Schneider, 0.927
2. Henrik Lundqvist, 0.923
3. Pekka Rinne, 0.919
T3. Roberto Luongo, 0.919
T3. Ryan Miller, 0.919
6. Antti Niemi, 0.917
7. Jonathan Quick, 0.915
8. *Corey Crawford, 0.913
T8. Marc-Andre Fleury, 0.913
10. Martin Brodeur, 0.910
11. Carey Price, 0.908
*I put Crawford in here because he recently won the Stanley Cup and is comparable in age and style to Schneider; however, he has only played 4 seasons in the NHL.
Please note that these are not the top ranked goaltenders total, they are the top ranked goalies who are supposed to be elite and have all seen playoff action at least once in the past 5 seasons.
Obviously, Schneider tops these lists, and in GAA has distanced himself from the pack. The only netminder with numbers even close to his belong to Henrik Lundqvist, and we all know what Lundqvist brings to the Rangers.
What I’m trying to prove with all of this, is that the Devils really don’t need to hang on to Marty Brodeur if they can find someone who could use a veteran goalie and can spare some firepower.
There are a couple of teams who come to mind, but the highest bidders, should Marty become available, should be Edmonton, Florida and Philadelphia. It wouldn’t hurt for Colorado or the New York Islanders to get in on Brodeur as well. So now that we have a small number of possible teams, what could each of them send to New Jersey in order to acquire the legendary future hall-of-famer?
Before we start, it should be noted that Martin Brodeur carries a NTC and would have to be consulted before a trade could be approved.
It’s no secret that the Oilers have serious forward depth, since they’ve used multiple recent first overall picks to select only elite scorers. This year, they’ve changed their ways a bit and drafted Darnell Nurse and signed former Bruin Andrew Ference to solidify the back end. The biggest question mark? Goaltending. Oil brass has believed in Devan Dubnyk and see him as the future in goal. However, He has struggled to find his game with a lack of defensive support and a revolving door of backup goaltenders, none of whom have been able to steer him in the right direction. This is where Marty comes in. I don’t need to sit here and list Brodeur’s accomplishments to convince anyone he would be a good choice, but Edmonton seems like a perfect fit. He would be considered a 1b, similar to his current status and would be able to help a young team make the playoffs. So, what do the Oilers send to Jersey?
G Martin Brodeur
New Jersey gets:
C Sam Gagner
G Olivier Roy
2014 2nd round pick
This trade gives Edmonton a legendary goalie to win some games and increase Devan Dubnyk’s development, while New Jersey provides Sam Gagner a place to be the go-to guy.
It is no secret that the Panthers are desperate to upgrade in goal, after spending the last 2 years in and out of negotiations to bring in Roberto Luongo. Jacob Markstrom is the future, but just isn’t quite there yet and Jose Theodore is not only over the hill, but he’s made it to the bottom on the other side. With the free agent market tapped of goaltenders, the Panthers will need to explore trade options if they intend to put someone in front of Markstrom. Here is my hypothetical deal:
G Martin Brodeur
New Jersey gets:
C Drew Shore
LW Sean Bergenheim
2014 1st round pick
Brodeur in a Panthers uniform makes them a playoff team again. Shore is expendable with the recent drafting of Alexsander Barkov and Bergenheim provides some secondary scoring, while the first round pick provides some insurance should Bergenheim go down or Shore not amount to his potential.
Another team who has been trying to upgrade the goaltender position for quite a while is the Philadelphia Flyers. GM Paul Holmgren went out and signed Ray Emery to fill the hole, but many question Emery’s ability to play a whole season as a starter. If he gets off to a rocky start, Brodeur could be on Broad St before too long. It is well known around the league that Philly would be a serious contender if their net wasn’t a black hole for pucks, and Brodeur could help fix that problem. The Flyers are deep at centre and could give up a prospect and a pick without sacrificing their future. This is the exchange I would propose:
G Martin Brodeur
New Jersey gets:
C Brayden Schenn
2014 1st round pick.
Schenn is a player that Lou Lamiorello could build his team around and would immediately boost the team’s offense. Bringing Brodeur in takes the pressure and workload off Emery and give Flyers fans peace of mind knowing they have a goalie who can and will stop pucks for them, whether there are bears or not.
As for the other 2 teams, Colorado is expected to start shopping Ryan O’Reilly now that they have drafted Nathan Mackinnon. There could be a deal swung there. Additionally, the Islanders have a talented young core that could give up one or two of Ryan Strome, Casey Cizikas or Kirill Kabanov without putting the future of the franchise is danger.
Obviously, Brodeur is a monster in goal and the thought of trading him probably makes Devils fans throw up in their mouth a little, but with Cory Schneider in town, free from drama or distraction, the Devils should explore moving him to bring in some much-needed firepower. All of this, of course, is hypothetical and purely made up, but I would like to see how people react to the thought of Brodeur playing somewhere besides New Jersey.