If there was one person associated with the New Jersey Devils who wasn’t excited about Sunday’s stunning deal at the ninth hour with the club trading their first round pick to the Vancouver Canucks for goaltender, Cory Schneider, it was current backup Johan Hedberg.
With the 27-year-old Massachusetts native coming east with his $4 million plus salary, the fate of the 40-year-old Swede seems quite clear. He is out despite having one year remaining on a two-year deal.
Since signing with the Devils as a free agent in the summer of 2010, Hedberg was the man behind future Hall of Fame goaltender, Martin Brodeur. It is a role he wore well, coming in and performing admirably when he was needed.
However, the implications of the first round trade at the 2013 NHL Draft are clear. Schneider is the heir apparent to the pipes when Brodeur finally hangs up his well-worn pads. He is not going to be sitting in the stands watching this season. On the contrary, he will most likely shoulder half of the games. So where does that leave Hedberg?
General Manager Lou Lamoriello said in an interview in the Star Ledger that he has spoken with Hedberg since the surprise deal over the weekend.
“Right now we’ll have to see exactly what happens with Heddy,” Lamoriello explained. “He and I have sat down. We spent some time together. We have some options, which I’d rather not get into. It was a private and confidential conversation. I don’t think anything will be done right away.”
Hedberg does have a no-trade clause which can be waived with his permission. One possibility would have Lamoriello possibly trading him to a team who needs a veteran backup at a non-outrageous price. Another option would be using one of the team’s two buyouts which would allow Hedberg to become an unrestricted free agent at noon on July 5. He could then possibly play for another NHL team or head overseas, possibly to his homeland to play out he remainder of his career.
If the Devils are to use the buyout, Hedberg must be placed on unconditional waivers by noon on Thursday. The compliance buyout option ends at 5 P.M. on the Fourth of July before the official fireworks begin. Hedberg would need to clear waivers by noon on Friday.
Teams that do not use their two buyouts this offseason can still use that option next summer.
Hedberg has reportedly left for his home in Sweden and is not giving any interviews at this time.
While Hedberg is a fan favorite and has always carried himself with a great deal of professionalism, he is an unfortunate victim of the business side of the sport. With Brodeur nearing the end of his career, the Devils needed to fill that void with a strong, talented goaltender. Schneider has proven himself to be a number one netminder. At 40, Hedberg is also nearing the end of his time in professional sports.
He probably would have liked to go out on his own terms and at his own time, but that is the nature of athletics at this level. You don’t necessarily get to make that choice; sometimes it is made for you. However, he is lucky he is in the Devils organization. His departure will be handled respectfully by the team.
It does seem as though the buyout is the best option for both the team and Hedberg since it is extremely unlikely another club is going to make a trade for a netminder in his 40s. Once it is done, Hedberg can pursue other options which would best suit himself and his family.