The Trade That Never Was

Since November, just one month into the season, the Devils were faced with two rumors that began to circulate throughout the hockey world: Martin Brodeur and Jaromir Jagr possibly being traded.  Jagr’s outspoken and adamant desire to stay with the Devils or go home helped that rumor to phase out.  But for Brodeur, answering each question truthfully, he kept the fire of the rumor blazing.

The rumor started off when a reporter posed the question to both players: If X were to happen, what would they think about being traded?

That happened back at the start of November.  Since then, Brodeur was continuously asked what his thoughts were on possibly being traded and he answered it honestly.  The idea started in the press, and then it began to weigh on the most winningest goaltender’s thoughts.  What would he think of going to another team?

Earlier this week, former New Jersey Devils goaltender Kevin Weekes announced that the Minnesota Wild was interested in bringing Brodeur to the Wild.  Weekes, working from a good source, made the announcement and fueled the next wave of rumors.  Little did he know his source was working with ill intent.

By Monday at around 1AM, the rumors had gotten out of control when someone from the NHL Network tweeted out that Brodeur’s locker was empty and that it could be nothing or it could be something big.  It was indeed nothing.

Media in the locker room Sunday night were confused by this information going out.  They were there in the locker room.  Brodeur was there.  He wasn’t cleaning out his locker post-game.  His equipment had been piled up with everyone else’s equipment, ready to go into the practice locker room.

He showed up at the office Monday morning.  He was even named as the starting goaltender for Tuesday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings.  Yet, the media kept funneling out news that Brodeur was on the trade block.

Come Tuesday morning, Brodeur showed up at the rink to news that he had been traded to the Minnesota Wild and that it was final.  This took him by surprise because he has a No Trade Clause.  They would have to ask him to waive the clause in order for him to go to Minnesota.  No one had spoken to him about it.  So the rumor had to be false.

“I heard when I came in [Tuesday] morning,” Brodeur said of the rumor.  “It didn’t go through me so I knew it wasn’t true.”

Ends up, the rumor was false.  The same source from Minnesota that had spoken to Weekes had leaked that information.  The truth was that the Minnesota front office never spoke about bringing Brodeur to Minnesota for one simple reason…they can’t afford him.

As a response to the situation, the Wild went after and got Ilya Bryzgalov from the Edmonton Oilers.

As for the source, he was punished.

“I heard someone got spanked today,” coach Peter DeBoer said of the Minnesota rumor.

It was apparent during the press conference after Tuesday’s game that Devils’ General Manager Lou Lamoriello had spoken to Brodeur about why it was so important to have stopped the rumor when it started back in November.  It wouldn’t have snowballed into this monstrosity.  He’s now learned his lesson.

“Different things that comes around with not answering the proper question…I could have shut it down and said, ‘No,’” Brodeur said of the media asking him about being traded.  “But I try to be as honest about my situation and we’ll have to deal with it.  I understand that if it happened, especially like the rumor that happened [Tuesday] morning, if it would have been someone different than me, that doesn’t have a no trade and had to play a game and was told that he was going to get traded, I don’t think that’s fair for some of these athletes that have to deal with this.  I can see it now.  Before, I thought it was funny.”

“I had some good conversations with Lou about what I want to do for the rest of the year and maybe next year,” Brodeur said.  “From there, it’s up to him to make the decision that he wants.  He knows exactly where I stand.  It’s a private matter between me and him.  It’s been a hard couple of weeks.  It’s been a hard last part of the season with not playing a lot.  We’ll see what’s going to happen.  I’ve played two games now in four days.”

One element that people on the outside don’t understand is what a rumor like this can do.  They think it effects just Brodeur and Lamoriello.  They don’t see what it does to the team.

For the players on the team, Brodeur isn’t some old guy past his prime that’s still riding on the tails of his past success.  He’s more to them than his past.  He is the soul of the team.  He is the reason why the Devils have become who they’ve become.  To take the soul away from the team and send him off to some other team…it’s not just the heart of the fans that would be broken.  The team would have been broken.

“He’s always handled himself great,” Adam Henrique said of Brodeur.  “He’s a calming influence for the guys in here and on the ice.  If we’re under pressure, he’s always smart with the puck.”

“Whether he’s here or not, he’s the face of this organization for the last 20-plus years,” Travis Zajac said following Tuesday night’s game.  “All of the shutout records, the win records…that will never be forgotten.  He’s the best goalie to ever play the game.  He would play for the Devils.  Everyone would remember that.”

“You ask anyone about the Devils, they can tell you one guy off the top of their head is Marty.  He’s a special player for this organization.  He’s won championships here.  He’s built a winning culture here as much as anyone has in this organization.  All of his records, shutout and wins, he’ll be in the Hall of Fame.  It’s hard to picture him in another jersey when you take a step back at all of that.  At the same time, he wants to play.  I think he’s earned that right to do what he wants at this point in his career.”

“Throughout the years I’ve been here, he’s the guy that I’ve quietly watched on the ice/off the ice,” Zajac said as he started to get choked up.  “At times, I’ve kind of modeled my persona after his.  It would be tough to see him go.”

Thinking of his favorite Brodeur memories, he listed the moment Marty broke the win record first.

“That was pretty cool,” he said.

He also listed the moment when Brodeur broke the 103rd Shutout Record as one of his favorite moments.  “I think being a part of both of those is a moment I can take pride in and say ‘I played with the best goalie of all-time.’  Those are a couple of memories I remember of him.”

“Everyone will remember him for what he’s done for this organization, the Stanley Cups he’s won, the records he’s broke, how he’s helped out this team, this city.  He’s basically put the New Jersey Devils on his back.  He’s been the face of this organization for 20-plus years.  I’m sure he played with some emotion, it was definitely on the back of our minds.  I’m just happy that he’s playing well right now and he was able to get a win.”

Watching Zajac so close to breaking down into an ugly cry in the middle of the locker room goes to show what would happen to the team as a whole if they had lost Brodeur.  To lose the soul of the team, the spirit of the team would be gone too.  Mr. Lamoriello would have had a distraught, broken hearted team on his hands in the final stretch to make the playoffs.

Lamoriello is trying to win a Cup, not destroy his own team.  That is why Brodeur was NEVER going to be traded.  While Brodeur had a right to go to Lamoriello and ask for a trade, he never did.

But despite Brodeur’s honesty throughout, and the media playing into the rumor mill, the fans, being nervous that Brodeur could leave, flocked to the arena for what they thought could be his last game as a Devil.  Ticket resale prices soared to unbelievable amounts for the sold out event.  Fans chanted “Mar-ty” throughout the game.  The energy in the arena was similar to that of the playoffs.

“It was great,” Brodeur said of the fan reaction.  “I didn’t expect that.  I think you guys (the media) did a good job to kind of create maybe a sellout for the Devils.  It was nice the fans reacted like that.  I haven’t played since January 7th in this building.  It’s been awhile.  I was kind of happy to get back in here and play well enough to win.”

While that Minnesota rumor incensed the fans the morning of that game, it also put the Devils on a roller coaster of emotions…something the team did not need especially when a playoff spot is on the line.

While the media chose to focus on something that was not an issue (trading Brodeur), they lost sight of what the real issue was and that was what the Devils really needed to do to make the team better.  They needed to fix the Michael Ryder/Ryane Clowe line.

The Devils’ third line has the worst +/- on the team.  While Ryder is the third leading goal scorer on the team, his line has helped contribute to most of the goals against this season.  That is a huge indicator that the line isn’t working.

To answer that dilemma, including the need to find scoring, the Devils acquired Tuomo Ruutu from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for Andrei Loktionov.

Ruutu, who also had a no trade clause, waived his no trade in favor of going to New Jersey.

“He’s delighted to be here,” Lamoriello said on the team’s website.  “He had to make the decision to come here because he has a no-trade clause, so that decision was on him 100 percent. He had a choice and he came here.”

In the first practice after the trade deadline, Ruutu was put on Ryder’s line.  Clowe was moved to Jagr’s line.

Now that Lamoriello has added and subtracted a piece to this team and the rumor mill is officially over, the team can now move forward.  As for Brodeur, despite the negative things people said about him during the last few weeks, all he was looking for was a chance to prove to them and to himself that he can still play at a high level.  In his last two starts, he led the team to two instrumental wins.

“I’m trying to say to myself that I can still play this game,” Brodeur said.  “I just needed the opportunity.  It’s kind of nice to be in between the pipes in the last few games, so that I can prove that I can still compete at a high level and get some wins.  It’s all about winning and it’s not about stats.  For me, it’s all about getting W’s.  This is where I’m comfortable.  It’s not talking to you guys.  It’s playing hockey.”

If Brodeur had left in a trade, he said he would have come back to the Devils because of Jagr.  “I gotta see his 800th goal.”

Whether saying that says something about Jagr’s future with the New Jersey Devils…that remains to be seen.

Devils Get a Win

The NHL announced on Thursday that the League has decided to modify the disciplinary sanctions imposed on the Devils for circumvention of the Collective Bargaining Agreement when they signed Ilya Kovalchuk.

Kovalchuk’s contract was voided last summer when he decided to retire from the NHL.  The Devils sought to get their draft pick back in the 2014 NHL Draft and succeeded.

They are now entitled to the 30th selection overall in the 2014 NHL Draft and are not allowed to trade or transfer that right.

The fine was also partially reduced.

The League also ended the press release with: “The League intends to have no further comment on this matter.”

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