Analyzing the Craig Anderson contract extension

As mentioned yesterday, the Ottawa Senators re-signed goaltender Craig Anderson to a four-year contract extension worth $12.75M. The average annual value gives him a $3.1875M cap hit. Immediate reaction to the signing was largely shock at the term; four years for a goaltender in Ottawa seemed, to most, like far too much considering the team's reputation and Anderson's fairly short resume.

Looking at the deal, though, it does appear that Anderson gave up some money on the deal in order to get long-term security in the four-year term. People have fairly pointed out that this summer will offer a buyer's market for teams looking at goaltending free agents, but if Anderson was the player the Senators organization wanted, kudos to them for getting him signed. As with any deal, time will tell how it works out.

In analyzing the signing, it's important to consider both term and dollars in order to reach conclusions as to whether it's a fair one for the player. So I'll break my analysis down in those categories, before taking a look at the overall picture.

The Term
Without a doubt, the term is longer than most people expected. Generally, people were looking at between two and three years, and would likely have praised that term, but for whatever reason that fourth year has soured a good number of fans. Perhaps there is good reason: Ottawa has a very extensive resume in failed goaltending projects, and people are concerned that if Anderson's name is added to that list, the length of the contract will tie Ottawa's hands and impede the rebuilding of the franchise.

One of the primary concerns with the term some have is how if affects the development of Robin Lehner. This is less of a concern with me. Lehner has, as of yet, not proven to be a capably reliable AHL goaltender; to think the Senators would reserve him a spot in the NHL in the event he becomes an NHL-calibre goalie is laughable. In the small sample size this season, Anderson has offered the Senators the best goaltending they have seen in a long time, perhaps in the history of the new franchise; to think we would risk losing that player for a far from proven commodity like Lehner is flawed thinking. (Granted, the assumption is that he can continue playing at or near this level for the whole term. That remains to be seen, and I can't and won't venture a guess as to whether he can). If and when Lehner is ready for the NHL, he will have to steal the starting role from an established goaltender. I would much rather that scenario than the one where he's simply offered the position.

Even if four years seems like a long time right now, it's remarkable how much can change in that time. Four years ago, Ottawa's two goalies were Martin Gerber and Ray Emery. Since then, those two have been released (Gerber waived, Emery bought out), while the team has also dismissed Alex Auld (trade), Brian Elliott (trade), and Pascal Leclaire (pretty much just dismissal). Player movement is inevitable and common. Should the cynics and pessimists turn out right and this deal not work out, four years isn't too handcuffing.

The Money
The money hasn't been nearly as controversial as the term, but it's still a good raise: His cap his this year only $1.8125M, and will almost double to $3.1825M. It sets him up as the 16th-highest-paid goaltender in the league next season (although that's likely to fall to 18 once Tomas Vokoun and Ilya Bryzgalov get their next contracts). So it's certainly not chump change.

It is, however, less than an offer he's previously rejected. During negotiations last summer, the Colorado Avalanche reportedly offered a two-year extension worth $7.5M (or $3.75M per season) to Anderson, which he rejected. He's lost out on a bit of money on a per-year basis, but Anderson did gain some long-term security in getting a term twice as long.

The number also seems fair--if a little low--considering Anderson's play in the last few seasons. Among goalies with at least 50 games played since the 2006-07 season, Anderson has the seventh-best save percentage (although his goals-against average isn't nearly as impressive at 2.69, 37th in the aforementioned class).

The Sum Total
It would seem, in looking at the contract, that Anderson gave up a little money in order to secure term, and the Senators gave some extra term in order to save some money. Both of them seem fair compared to similar goaltenders across the league. Does that mean the deal will work out? If you can tell me for sure, you've got a more effective crystal ball than I do. The Senators saw a goalie they liked, and let their money do the talking in showing him how highly they felt. Anderson found a team that wanted him, and a city thirsting for a competent goaltender, and signed on long-term to stay on board.

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