By Steve Silverman
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It may have looked like the Devils were willing to let Martin Brodeur leave the organization and wear another team’s uniform for the final years of his career, but it was not about to happen.
Brodeur signed a two-year deal with the Devils that will pay him $9 million over those seasons. There’s no guarantee that he will remain in uniform in 2013-14, but if they can retain Zach Parise and they have another strong run in the postseason, Brodeur should indeed be back to finish the deal.
Parise’s status will certainly have a lot to do with the Devils’ fortunes in 2012-13 because he is one of the dominant players in the league and clearly the most desirable free agent. Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter is probably the second-best free-agent available and he is an excellent player, he just does not have the all-around skills of Parise.
That’s not just a matter of Parise being a forward and Suter being a defenseman. Parise is a sensational forechecker and that allows him to turn defense into offense in an instant. Parise is the rare player who can turn his overwhelming intensity into an asset on an every-game basis. It’s one thing for a player to try hard, but Parise plays with so much effort that he’s likely to run over bigger opponents when he’s taking the puck to the net. Few players can do that.
The three primary contenders for Parise remain the Minnesota Wild, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings. Parise was born and raised in Minnesota and would be welcomed as a returning hero. The combination of Parise and Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh could be magical while Parise admires Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.
Perhaps Brodeur knows something about Parise and that’s why he returned to the Devils, but it appeared the Hall-of-Famer-to-be had other options. The strongest was probably in Chicago because the Blackhawks don’t have a big-name goaltender and unless they make a move they will have Corey Crawford as their No. 1 starter with Ray Emery as the backup.
That pairing is adequate, but it is not Stanley Cup worthy. Stan Bowman, the son of the legendary Scotty Bowman, runs the Hawks and he been fairly consistent in his belief that a team can win a Stanley Cup without a great goaltender if that team can maintain possession of the puck and also take advantage of its own scoring opportunities. The Blackhawks followed that kind of game plan when they won the Stanley Cup in 2010.
That year they had Antti Niemi in net, and he soon signed a restricted free-agent deal with the San Jose Sharks that the Blackhawks failed to match. Now that they have been without a high-end goalie capable of asserting himself in the postseason, the Hawks are changing their minds. That’s why they wanted Brodeur.
The Maple Leafs reportedly had interest in Brodeur – and with good reason. They have been afflicted with awful goaltending for much of the last three seasons and Brodeur would have given them a major upgrade in that area and he would have also given them leadership. It’s unlikely that Brodeur ever listened to the Leafs seriously. There’s simply too much work to be done in Toronto. It wouldn’t have been unreasonable for him to sign with the Leafs with just a couple of years left in his career.
Brodeur loves the game and he has had a wondrous career with the New Jersey that will end up with him ranked with the best goalies in the history of the game. He has nothing to prove at this point and he is playing for the joy of it – and the money. But if the Devils can’t re-sign Parise, Brodeur may not be so thrilled with his decision.