"It's two guys I spend a lot of time with on and off the ice," Brodeur told NorthJersey.com. "But, at the end of the day, we always try to bounce back, and that's going to open up some [salary] cap room to hopefully bring some other people or give a chance for other people."
Those people are unlikely to be the caliber of Kovalchuk and Clarkson, a pair of forwards who were second and third on the team in points last season (behind Patrik Elias). This after losing 2011-12 third-leading scorer, Zach Parise, as a free agent to the Minnesota Wild last summer.
"Like Zach, it's going to hurt us," Brodeur said Thursday. "[Ilya] is a special hockey player. It's pretty hard. We paid a big price to get him as far as some of the talent we gave up, the money we gave up on our cap. There's a reason. It's because he's a special player. It's going to be hard to replace him."
Brodeur was referring to Kovalchuk's 15-year, $100 million contract, which had 12 years and $77 million remaining. Due to rulings by the NHL and an arbitrator, the Devils had to surrender two draft picks (including their first-rounder in 2014), and will be charged from $250,000-$300,000 against the salary cap for the next 12 seasons. The team also traded three players and two draft picks to the Atlanta Thrashers to acquire Kovalchuk in February 2010.
Brodeur was dismayed that after all of that, three years later, his team is getting nothing in return.
"It's always a little touchy because every player has their own right to do whatever they want," Brodeur told reporter Tom Gulitti. "But we're a family and we play together. Surely, I'm disappointed. I'm disappointed because I care about the organization. I care about everything.
"He committed himself for a long time, and when you turn around a few years after and you decide to just leave everything, it's not like we're getting anything for him. If anything, it's costing us money on the cap. Even though it's not a lot of money, it's still a part that's going to affect the organization for the next 12 years. In that sense, for me, just because of what I've done in my life towards New Jersey and the Devils and everything, is disappointing. But as a player, I can understand."
Brodeur has spent his entire professional career with the Devils, starting when he was drafted in 1990. The organization even added his son Anthony at this year's draft.
In Kovalchuk's retirement statement, the Russian mentioned his "desire to go back home and have my family there with me."
"It's tough because we gave up a lot to get him with the draft picks and the money and the penalties," Brodeur said. "The organization did a lot for him to be in the position he was, and he felt a certain way, and I'm sure it wasn't an easy decision to go through with it. It's one thing to think about it, but to go through with it, that's a different ballgame."