Martin Brodeur is going to remain the face of the New Jersey Devils.
The 40-year-old goaltender who has led the team to three Stanley Cups, signed a two-year, $9 million contract Monday to stay with the only NHL club he's ever known.
"At the end of the day, this is what I wanted all along," Brodeur said in a conference call. "Circumstances happen sometimes in life that I can't control, and I can't say it won't happen again, but I am happy, and two years seems appropriate for me maybe to leave the game at that time. But I am not 100 percent sure. Again, we'll how I feel and how well I am able to play."
The key to the new deal was the Devils' eventual willingness to give him the extra year, Brodeur said. Adding the length of the contract was more important than the money because of the potential of a lockout this upcoming season. Two years provides stability and the assurance that he will have somewhere to play.
Brodeur would not identify the teams that contacted him, though Chicago and Toronto expressed interest. When asked if he gave the Devils a discount, he noted there were offers from other teams that were much different than the one he signed.
Hours after word of Brodeur's deal leaked, the Devils also announced that backup goaltender Johan Hedberg, 39, also signed a two-year deal worth $1.4 million per season. Both deals feature no-trade clauses.
"We'll definitely bring stability to the back end," said Brodeur, the NHL's all-time winningest goaltender. "We've done that for the last year and a half, two years. It's nice to be able to count on somebody to be able to play well and that helped me to be fresh on the back end of the season. It's a nice setup."
Brodeur posted a 31-21-4 record in the regular season with three shutouts and a .908 save percentage in helping the Devils make the playoffs after missing out the previous year for the first time since 1996. He was better in the postseason, recording a 14-9 mark with a 2.12 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage in leading sixth-seeded New Jersey to its first Eastern Conference title since 2003.
New Jersey defeated the Panthers, Flyers and Rangers to advance to the finals before losing the Cup to the Los Angeles Kings in six games.
Brodeur has posted a 656-371-105 career record with the Devils, winning Cups in 1995, 2000 and 2003, and has been a fixture for a franchise that had never been to a Cup final before he arrived. Admittedly, free agency was a new experience for him, as contract negotiations haven't often been a sticking point in his career. In fact, before he hired Pat Brisson last week, Brodeur used to represent himself at the bargaining table with Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello.
"We talked to the Devils all along and the line of communication was always open," Brodeur said, adding he did entertain some offers before the Devils came through with the all-important extra year.
"The Devils weren't ready for a little while to do that," he said. "When they were able to get it done, that made the decision pretty easy."
Hedberg, a 1994 draft choice of Philadelphia, has a career mark of 155-133-33 with 21 shutouts and a 2.83 goals-against average in 354 games over ten NHL seasons. He played for Pittsburgh, Vancouver, Dallas and Atlanta before truly finding his way in New Jersey. He played in 27 games last season, posting a 17-7-2 mark with four shutouts and a 2.23 goals-against, and is quite comfortable as a reserve player at this point in his career.
With the goaltending situation settled, the Devils now turn their focus left wing Zach Parise. The Devils captain is the top free agent on the market, and he told reporters Sunday that he may make a decision Monday. Parise was named captain before last season by new coach Peter DeBoer, and delivered 31 goals and 69 points in that role.
Brodeur spoke with Parise several times on Sunday, and then again on Monday morning. He even planned a couple more calls if necessary. He also talked to Lamoriello about Parise while working on his own deal.
"Zach is a priority of the Devils," Brodeur said. "You have to put pieces together to form a team, and he is a piece of it, like Hedberg is a piece of it. Zach is a franchise player at this stage of his career. We are definitely waiting impatiently for his decision and hopefully he is coming back with us."
Parise deserves everything he can get in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Brodeur said.
"I wasn't that much biased yesterday afternoon, but now I am a lot more for him to come back," Brodeur quipped, adding that Parise has indicated that the Devils are right in the mix on his short list.
"By no means," Brodeur said, "is he not considering coming back."