TORONTO — Martin Brodeur is ready to take a backup role, and the future Hall of Famer is well aware he may have no other option.
An unrestricted free agent on July 1, the 42-year-old goaltender has a list of teams he’ll sign with and his agent has already been in contact with “a few” clubs since the free agent interview window opened June 25. But the phone isn’t exactly ringing off the hook for the winningest goaltender in NHL history.
“For me, I’m not a priority for teams. There is a specific role that I want, and there’s only certain teams that I’d like to go to, so we’re taking our time,” Brodeur told Sportsnet Thursday night at Rogers Centre, where he attended a Blue Jays game as part of the Joe Carter Classic charity golf tournament. “I’m seeing what opportunities present themselves. I have a lot of respect for the Devils. Whatever is going to happen will happen.”
Unfortunately for Brodeur, this summer is a buyer’s market for goalies. Ryan Miller and Jonas Hiller should have the lead on No. 1 jobs, while Brodeur finds himself as one of a number of free-agent netminders past age 30, including the likes of Tim Thomas, Evgeni Nabokov, Ray Emery, Ilya Bryzgalov and Scott Clemmensen. Toss in younger backups like Chad Johnson, Thomas Greiss, Al Montoya and Justin Peters – or trade chips like Cam Ward and James Reimer – and teams looking to fill their crease have plenty of choices.
Brodeur hasn’t quite closed the door on the only team he has ever played for. But with the Devils’ Cory Schneider wanting assurance that he is the No. 1 in New Jersey, Brodeur is prepared to take a backup role if he can sign with a contender and have a shot at a fourth championship.
“If I get a job as a No. 1, I think I’m able to handle the workload of 50 to 60 games. If I don’t, and I get a backup job on a team I feel has a chance to win the Stanley Cup, anything between 20 to 30 games I’d be comfortable with in the right situation,” said Brodeur.
After backstopping the Devils to the 2012 Cup final, Brodeur dipped his toe into the free-agent pool a couple of summers ago, but quickly re-signed with the Devils for two years and $9 million. He hasn’t been back to the playoffs since.
Swapping starts with Schneider in 2013-14, the four-time Vezina Trophy winner went 19-14-6, posting three shutouts, a 2.51 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage, the latter a career worst.
But as he mingled Thursday night at the baseball game — chatting with Gordie Howe and Tim Leiweke and posing for photos with kids – Brodeur sounded both optimistic and realistic.
“I want to play the game. I understand my age, for people, is a big deal, but I stayed healthy all year. I played 39 games. Didn’t miss a practice. Didn’t miss a game. I was pretty happy about that,” he said.
“My body responded, and my mind is ready to go again. I’m excited about the new challenge that’s going to come in front of me.”
On which NHL goaltender most impresses Brodeur with his passing ability:
“There’s a bunch of goalies that are really effective. I saw Ben Bishop play. For his size and the way he plays the game, it’s pretty impressive the way he’s able to move the puck.”
On watching Henrik Lundqvist fall victim to the Kings in the Stanley Cup Final, as Brodeur did in 2012:
“Winning a Stanley Cup is a hard thing. They relied on him a little too much for my liking, had I been in net for the Rangers. Every night he looked like he was under siege, but he performed really well under the gun. The Kings were just the better team.”
On the 2014 Hockey Hall of Fame class:
“All guys I played against, so it’s very cool to see. Dominik Hasek, at one point in his career it was him winning the Vezina and me being the runner-up for like four years in a row. We have a great relationship, he’s a great goalie, and now he’s a Hall of Famer.”
On playing with fellow 42-year-old Jaromir Jagr:
“It was fun. We came from the same draft year, so we could relate to a lot of things. Now it’s hard to relate to some of the young players coming into the league, so we really bonded really well as teammates and as friends.”