The Ottawa Senators have had quite the carousel of goaltenders in the last few years. Injuries and personal leave have given the team a bit of a conundrum in the crease. Craig Anderson has been their guy since he arrived in the Brian Elliott trade from Colorado in 2011. However, finding the right backup goalie to fill in for injuries and time away has not been so straight forward.
The Ottawa Senators Crease Conundrum
Andrew Hammond, A.K.A “The Hamburglar” had the miraculous run in 2014-15 and was promptly signed to a three-year deal. He is currently out with an ankle injury. Enter Mike Condon. He has started in 13 consecutive games since December 18th, when Hammond went down. It’s unknown when Anderson will return from his personal leave to be with his wife who is diagnosed with cancer. Condon can not, or should not, play every game until Anderson’s return. So who can back him up? Matt O’Connor and Chris Driedger have taken turns, but neither have played in the big league since Hammond has been on the IR. That’s five goalies to deal with. So where do the Ottawa Senators go from here? Let’s take a closer look at what each goalie has to offer.
Craig Anderson arrived in 2011 in the Elliott trade and he has been solid ever since. The 35-year old from Park Ridge, Illinois, is signed with the team through the 2017/2018 season at a $4.2 million annual salary. For a starting goalie that’s a bargain. He is the 22nd highest paid goalie in the league. Although he is in his mid thirties, his numbers have been stellar, especially considering Ottawa generally allows a lot of shots per game. In fact, with the Ottawa Senators he has never posted below a .910 save percentage for a season.
Anderson was actually having a great year before he left, winning 12 of the 19 games he started and posting a .924 save percentage. So until his contract runs out in 2018, it’s safe to say that he will be the official starter for this Sens team.
Ah, Andrew Hammond. The Hamburglar. What great memories any hockey fan has of his miraculous 2015 run, winning 20 of his 23 games started. He was the biggest reason the Ottawa Senators made the playoffs that year. Hammond was barely a good goalie in the AHL and all of a sudden he puts up great numbers in the big league. He was rewarded with a three-year deal that will end the same year as Anderson’s deal. His cap hit is an even bigger bargain at $1.35 million a year. In his first full season as a back up, Hammond put up decent numbers (2.65 GAA, .914 SV%), however he only won seven of the 21 games started. It’s fair to say that no one expected him to keep up the godly numbers from 2015.
So for his cap hit, the 28-year old could remain a decent back up option, or even potentially a nice trade piece for a team with goalie injury troubles. He is still on the IR with an ankle injury he suffered on December 18th and it’s unknown when he will return.
So remember how both Anderson and Hammond are bargains? Condon is like a painting you bought at a garage sale that is actually work of art. The Ottawa Senators acquired him from the Pittsburgh Penguins this year for only a fifth round pick. His cap hit? A little over half a million for the season. He has played in 23 games for the Sens and has won 13 of them. Not to mention he has currently started in 13 games straight. His numbers on the season include a 2.52 goals against average, .914 save percentage, and three shutouts. The Montreal Canadiens used him when Carey Price went down last season and he played 55 games for them. He has shown that he can take over a starting role in a pinch and do a good job of it.
It’s very unlikely that he will continue to be leaned on so heavily once Anderson is back. It will be interesting to see where he slots in once both Anderson and Hammond are back though. Since his contract is done this season and he will be receiving quite a pay raise. The Sens will have to decide whether he is in their future plans or not at the end of the season.
With Anderson gone, Hammond out, and Condon starting every game, who is the back up? 22-year old Chris Driedger has been sporting the ball cap on the bench for the Ottawa Senators for the last while. He was drafted in the third round in 2012, number 76 overall. Driedger has only played in one NHL game per year since 2014/2015 and has never started an NHL game, and the game he has played this year he allowed four goals on 15 shots.
In the AHL he has posted modest numbers this year: 16GP, 2.74 GAA, .909 SV%. Although it’s good that he’s practicing with an NHL club, no game time action isn’t ideal for a developing goalie. Driedger has been in the system a few years and has performed right around where a third round goalie selection should. He will be a solid option as an AHL starter and an occasional call up to fill in for injuries.
Matthew O’Connor was a high interest prospect from Boston College who chose to sign with the team in 2015. He had many different suitors, but in the end decided the Ottawa Senators were the best fit for him. For a goalie that didn’t cost the team a draft pick, he has been mediocre so far. The 24-year old struggled in his first season with the Baby Sens, in 34 games he only won 10 and posted a 3.31 GAA and a .895 SV%. He does have one NHL start though, that was a loss to the Montreal Canadiens all the way back in 2015. O’Connor was supporting Condon for a bit but has since been sent back down. He has posted 10 wins, 10 losses, 2.77 goals against average, and a .903 save percentage this year in the AHL.
With this season being the last on his entry level contract, it could be his last with the Senators. They may decide to give him more time to show what he can do, but it seems he hasn’t been able to live up to his hype coming out of Boston College.