Newark, N.J. - After what likely was his last game as a New Jersey Devil, goaltender Martin Brodeur didn't have to think hard when asked about the most challenging part of this past year.
The 41-year-old netminder, a future first-ballot Hall of Famer, was not happy with his playing time.
He made no effort to conceal that.
"Not playing as much, that's an obvious one," Brodeur said about abdicating the starting spot to heir apparent Cory Schneider. "It was difficult. And again, the position the coaching staff was in with having two goalies as No. 1s, it just doesn't work. It didn't work in Vancouver. It didn't work here too good. We didn't make the playoffs."
"I think it's important when you have one good goalie you have to give him the bulk of the work," Brodeur continued. "[Schenider] will get that from now on."
Brodeur did not sound like a player on the verge of retirement, but rather one that will approach free agency with the intent of looking for better opportunities elsewhere. After making just 39 appearances, including Sunday's 16-save effort in a 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins, Brodeur will prioritize playing time when testing the market.
"I think a ballpark amount of games I'll be able to play," Brodeur said of the biggest factor in identifying a good fit. "That's the bottom line. I don't want to prepare myself, like I did this summer, and get ready for a great season and sit on the bench. If I'm ready for 30 games next year in an organization and the Devils can't give me that, that will probably be something that makes my decision easier or harder."
Brodeur said it is not "out of the question" for him to return to New Jersey next season, but he has yet to discuss his future with general manager Lou Lamoriello. He acknowledged that maybe the Devils won't be trying to coax him into a return.
"I'm free," Brodeur said. "He's not stuck with me anymore."
Brodeur didn't sound committed to staying in the Northeast, either, as he joked that he might want to play in a city where the sun comes out for more than "four months a year." He sounded encouraged about the prospect of seeing what was available come July 1. After briefly testing the waters two summers ago, Brodeur ultimately re-signed with New Jersey, but he came away from the experience with an ego boost.
"It's pretty interesting. It makes you feel good," he said. "And hopefully, it's going to make me feel good this summer."
Brodeur was also asked about his willingness to embrace a backup role, a feat that obviously proved difficult for him this season. He sounded open to the possibility, but only under certain circumstances.
"If I sign somewhere as a backup, it won't be for a team that barely makes the playoffs," Brodeur said. "It will be a team that contends for the Stanley Cup."
One thing is for sure: Brodeur doesn't sound like someone legitimately toying with the idea of hanging up the skates.
"My mind is good, my kids are enjoying watching me play, and I'm having a lot of fun doing it. If the body holds up I might as well, because when I say it's over, it's going to be over," Brodeur said.
"We'll see when that day will comes. Could be sooner or later, you never know."