NHL: Craig Anderson, Robin Lehner And The Ottawa Senators Goaltending Dilemma
When the Ottawa Senators signed goalie of the future Robin Lehner to a three-year deal earlier in the offseason, it was considered a great move for the team. However, the recent signing of last year’s starter Craig Anderson makes the team’s goalie situation much more complicated.
It was widely assumed that when Anderson’s contract was up at the end of the 2014-15 season, the Senators would let him walk. This would leave Lehner as the team’s starter at the beginning of the 2015-16 season. Anderson’s new three-year deal could delay Lehner’s full-time role.
Anderson had a sensational year during the lockout shortened season of 2012-13, where in 24 games started, he went 12-9–2 with a .941 save percentage. He was one of the best goaltenders in the NHL that year.
The next season saw his strong stats dwindle, as he went from an elite goalie to a mediocre one. While his 25-16–8 record in 52 games started was consistent, his .911 save percentage wasn’t anywhere near his previous season’s mark.
Due to his drop off in production, the team decided to give Lehner some extra opportunities to make his case as a permanent starter.
Robin Lehner hasn’t been in the NHL for long, but his pedigree in juniors has made many think he is the goalie in waiting for Ottawa. Serving as Anderson’s backup, Lehner went a disappointing 12-15-6 during the 2013-14 season. While the record wasn’t all too impressive, we must take into account he is only 23 and has a lot of maturing to do.
There will not be a training camp battle for Ottawa. Over the course of their three-year deals, Anderson will be getting paid $12 million and Lehner will receive $7 million. There is simply too much money on the table to start Lehner and have Anderson sit on the pine.
However, it is entirely feasible that Ottawa will decide to trade either Lehner or Anderson before their contracts expire. This holds especially true for Anderson, whose yearly salary of $3.187 million ranks 23rd amongst starting NHL goalies.
Teams looking for a veteran starting goalie would be wise to invest the money in him.
Just this year, Ryan Miller, who is 33 years old, signed a deal that pays him $6 million per year. While Anderson does not have the pedigree of Miller, his NHL track record and low-cost, would suggest a team would be willing to take a gamble on him.
It’s unlikely that Ottawa trades Lehner. His contract is much more team friendly than Anderson’s deal, and he is a lot younger than his competition.
If the team does consider trading Lehner, they must remember that Anderson will be 36 at the end of his deal, and will be nearing the end of his career. Without a solid prospect goalie in their pipeline, Ottawa would have to seriously consider letting Lehner develop for at least a few more seasons, before they pull the trigger on trading him.
The signing of Anderson signals that the Senators believe they are close to a playoff spot. The team certainly has a better chance of winning with Anderson than with Lehner.