Martin Brodeur: Injured Now, But What Does The Future Hold?

When he returns from injury, how much should the New Jersey Devils rely on Martin Brodeur?

Injured New Jersey Devils' goaltender Martin Brodeur skated Friday morning, but won't play this evening against the San Jose Sharks. He probably won't play for a week or so after that, either, as his injured shoulder heals.

Question is, how should the Devils handle the 39-year-old future Hall of Famer when he is ready to return to action? NHL.com recently offered this bit of commentary/speculation about Brodeur:

Martin Brodeur, arguably the best goalie of all-time, started the Devils' season opener for the 17th straight season. He was not in the lineup for the second game of the regular season and then got hurt in the first period of the third game.

Whether he was trying to tell us something doesn't matter because Devils coach Peter DeBoer made a point by starting Johan Hedberg against Carolina on Oct. 10. No matter if he's healthy, Brodeur's days of playing 70 or more games in a season are over.

It was announced Wednesday that the shoulder injury Brodeur suffered against the Kings will sideline him another 7-10 days. He's 39 years old and age finally may be catching up to the future Hall of Fame goalie.

Brodeur is in the final year of his contract with New Jersey, and will be 40 when the season ends. He admitted recently that he thinks about retirement.

"It crosses my mind, there is no doubt about that," Brodeur told The Star-Ledger, "but it’s not something that stays with me. People will mention it, and it’s hard not to think about it. It might be. I’ve had a great run, and I’ve had a lot of fun doing it."

Brodeur is probably the most decorated goalkeeper in NHL history. Time catches up with everyone, though, and in 2010-2011 Brodeur played only 56 games and had his worst save percentage (.903) and goals-against average (2.45) since the 1994-95 season, when he was just 22 years old.

Handling a great veteran player who may be nearing the end of the line is never easy. The New York Yankees went through a turbulent 2011 season withJorge Posada, a proud player with a long and successful career, though not as Brodeur's level. 

What is best for the team may not always be in the best interests of an aging player, and can sometimes be seen as disrespectful.

Have the Devils and Brodeur reached that point? The point where having Brodeur between the pipes night after night might not be the best thing for the franchise? I don't know, and I am not sure DeBoer and the Devils do, either. 

The question, however, should make for an interesting dynamic as the 2011-12 NHL season plays out.

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