With Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils entering the final season of his two-year deal, may fans are wondering when the team will begin grooming his successor. Sure, taking over the goaltending duties from a future Hall of Fame netminder as well as the winningest goalie of all time is a tall order and one which the organization has avoided for a long time.
As a backup, the team brought in Johan Hedberg as a free agent back in 2010. The 40-year-old Swede has done a decent job backing up the 41-year-old Brodeur, but having two goaltenders in their forties really isn’t the best idea. For the past three seasons, Brodeur has played the bulk of the games unless he was hurt. With another 82-game season on tap, it is time to let Brodeur share the net equally with a partner.
Right now, the Devils have four goaltenders in their system. Jeff Frazee, who was drafted in 2005, and free agent acquisition Keith Kinkaid shared the goaltending chores at the club’s AHL affiliate in Albany, N.Y. They also have Scott Wedgewood and Maxime Clermont, who were both drafted in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft in their system.
Frazee is set to become a restricted free agent unless he is given a qualifying offer by the noon deadline on July 2. If that is not done, he can become an unrestricted free agent with the rest of the crew, whose contracts are up on July 5. The Minnesota native has also received an offer to play in Sweden next year. While General Manager Lou Lamoriello has said that he would like Frazee to remain in the organization, nothing has happened on that front as of yet. Perhaps it is time to let Frazee explore other options if it does not seem as though he has the skills to be a competitive backup or a starter at the NHL level.
Which leads us to the nagging question as to whether or not the Devils should use their No. 9 pick in the June 30 draft, which will take place on their home ice at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., to draft a first rounder who could potentially take over the pipes from Brodeur?
David Conte, who heads the scouting staff for the organization, mentioned Zach Fucale in an interview in the Star Ledger. The Canadian netminder is rated No. 1 among goaltenders and is picked by most hockey analysts as a future NHL starter. Fucale played last season for Halifax in the QMJHL and went 45-5-3 with a 2.35 goals against average and a .909 save percentage.
“There is a potential top-10 goalie in this draft,” Conte explained in the feature about the upcoming draft. “Zachary Fucale in Halifax had an unbelievable year on a great team. But to think of a goalie as an immediate solution, history is not on your side. We got Marty, and he was great, but it was three years before we saw him.”
Brodeur was chosen 20th in his draft year of 1990 and did not enter his first NHL season until 1993.
With the Devils missing postseason action for two of the past three years, it is clear that the club waited too long to start the dreaded rebuilding process. New blood, whether it comes from within or from other teams, needs to be injected into the organization.
There are a lot of areas the Devils need to address in tomorrow’s draft. They certainly could use a big blueliner who can create plays, as well as a forward who knows where the net is and yes, even a goaltender. If it doesn’t look like any of those four gentlemen who wear the goalie pads in the organization have what it takes to make it in the show, and Fucale is available when the team takes their turn, draft him. Brodeur can’t play forever as much as fans would like him to.