In a note that could mean absolutely nothing, or be a severe warning sign, goalie Martin Brodeur hired agent Pat Brisson to represent him in anticipation of going UFA for the first time ever on Sunday afternoon. For 99.9% of NHL players, this would not be a big deal since 99.9% of NHL players already have agents. However, for a guy that hasn't employed an agent for years and always negotiated his own deals with the Devils, this is legitimate news. What it may or may not mean is another story however. It could be as benign as Marty hiring someone just to take phone calls in case something dramatically changes with the Devils, or perhaps just compiling offers to see what fair market value is, since it's extremely unlikely GM Lou Lamoriello would low-ball his legendary goaltender. Predictably in the few hours since this news broke, Twitter and the internet have exploded with rumors of Marty's supposed interest in Tampa and Florida, among other things.
It's reminiscent of when baseball legend Derek Jeter became a free agent a few years back and all of a sudden reporters couldn't wait to drive a wedge between him and the Yankees to enhance the juicy storyline, but in the end Jeter stayed and I still think Marty will too. I mean really just from a logical perspective, not many playoff teams need a goaltender anyway and I'm 100% sure Marty's not going to a loser at this point of his career for a payday. The same guy who left millions of dollars on the table from the Devils to enhance their chances to win is all of a sudden going to go for a few extra dollars to a hopeless non-playoff team at the end of his career? Pigs will be flying over Newark before that happens. Even just the mere thought of Marty coming back to the Rock in another jersey provides a little more unneccesary drama that Devil fans don't need right now, with the Zach Parise negotiations still up in the air.
At least Parise and the Devils are still negotiating, for what that's worth. If Zach was aiming to go UFA, he's picking a funny way to go about it. Meeting with Lou throughout the week as much as he has seemingly goes above and beyond the call of mere courtesy meetings, and after stock quotes earlier in the week both sides are in full lockdown mode now. With approximately 42 hours to go before free agency, it's still up in the air whether there will be a resolution by then. I wouldn't put any money on Zach avoiding the July 1 frenzy, but I wouldn't be entirely shocked if there was a deal before then either. That would be beneficial to my stress levels at least.
If one good thing came out of today, it's that the Devils have been able to retain most of their role players, announcing no fewer than five signings this afternoon. Our entire fourth line of Ryan Carter, Steven Gionta and Steve Bernier is back in the fold, as well as defenseman Peter Harrold (Cam Janssen was the fifth signing announced but that was pretty much a given for a couple of days). Each of the three fourth-liners signed two-year deals, with Carter reportedly getting 775k on a one-way contract, Bernier getting 750k also on a one-way contract, and Gionta getting 750k on a one-way deal for this year, before the contract converts to a two-way deal next year. To retain a threesome that was dynamic throughout the whole postseason at under $2.5 million for the next two years is an absolute coup by Lou, and before July 1 to boot. I'm also pleasantly surprised we were able to retain Harrold - terms undisclosed - who I figured would be looking for a starting spot in someone else's lineup.
After today's signings, the Devils chopped their number of UFA's in half with only Zach, Marty, fellow backup Johan Hedberg, defenseman Bryce Salvador and forwards Petr Sykora and Alexei Ponikarovsky still unsigned. Clearly Zach and the two goalies are the top priorities, with Salvador currently on the outside looking in though both sides have given lip service to wanting Sal to come back to NJ. I really don't see it with seven defensemen under contract including Harrold and RFA Mark Fayne, but perhaps signing Sal and trading one of our other defensemen becomes an option if the captain walks. With only two forward spots open and one hopefully being re-filled by Zach, it's also unlikely Sykora and Poni are both retained. Besides retaining most of their own FA's, the Devils' only real need in FA is perhaps an extra forward that can do more than drop the gloves with enforcers Janssen and Eric Boulton (perhaps a buyout candidate) currently penciled in for our extra forward spots.
One thing's for sure, this is going to be a looong weekend, unless some more good news comes down the pike sooner rather than later.