According to a press release from the team earlier this afternoon, the Senators have inked 25-year-old free agent goalie Andrew Hammond to a two-way entry level contract and an amateur tryout agreement with the AHL club in Binghamton.
With Ben Bishop and Robin Lehner splitting time in the NHL, the move makes sense for a team that had Nathan Lawson and Marc Cheverie sharing the net in Binghamton. Cheverie has struggled in limited duty for the B-Sens. Though winning won 4 of his 7 AHL starts, Cheverie has posted a 3.10 GAA and .897 save percentage. Nathan Lawson, who has been a mainstay for Binghamton since the start of the NHL regular season, has put up very strong numbers, currently touting a 2.26 GAA and an impressive .939 save percentage. Lawson has started fourteen games for the B-Sens, including 5 of their last 6 outings, a heavy workload in a league that often requires goaltenders to share minutes.
The signing of Hammond will likely clear the way for Marc Cheverie to return to the Elmira Jackals of the ECHL. Binghamton has a chaotic weekend in which they will play host to the Albany Devils and Hamilton Bulldogs, before hitting the road for a Sunday matinee against the Connecticut Whale. If Cheverie is sent down, Hammond will be likely to see his first professional start this weekend.
Andrew Hammond is a native of Surrey, British Columbia. Hockeydb lists him at a shade over six foot. Hammond became a free agent when his Bowling Green State University Falcons season ended at the hands of Notre Dame, about which Erik Condra would likely have something to say. According to the Senators' press release, during his career with the Falcons, Hammond was named team MVP and most valuable defensive player. This season, he posted a 2.47 GAA and .917 save percentage, both of which are career bests. Prior to his four years at Bowling Green, Hammond was a starter for the Vernon Vipers of the BCHL, the native league of Kyle Turris, Patrick Wiercioch and a myriad of other NHLers.
Here's where things get a little sticky. One question surrounding the signing is how the Senators continue to make moves without surpassing the 50-player organizational maximum. I offered one suggestion from @steffeG following the signing of The Big Rutkwoski, which was that the slide on Matt Puempel, Stefan Noesen and Cody Ceci's entry-level deals allowed the Sens to carry 53 players. Indeed, any 18 or 19-year-old player who is returned to their junior team, without playing 11 games in the NHL, does not count against the 50-player limit.
Another aspect of this to note is that the Binghamton Senators announced earlier today that they had released little-known defenceman Kyle Bushee from his professional tryout with the team, making room on Binghamton's active roster. Brett Lebda is also signed to only an AHL-only deal. The last CBA stipulated teams be only allowed to carry 50 players on "Standard Player's Contracts", and I am unaware of any changes to this rule. Thus, players signed on amateur or professional tryout agreements are exempt. Lebda would have to clear waivers to play in the NHL.
Yet, even through all that, my rudimentary arithmetic on capgeek (I counted) would still have the Senators at 52 following this signing. So I did a little more digging and unearthed this layman's explanation from the Nashville Predators' website that helps explain CBA intricacies to its fans:
Knowing it has expiring contracts coming off its 50-contract maximum, a team can sign players to contracts for the following season. By doing so a team may have more than 50 different players signed to valid SPCs, as long as 50 or fewer are signed to valid SPCs for that current season AND fewer than 50 SPCs on tap for the upcoming season.
Troy Rutkowski, Michael Sdao and, it would appear, Andrew Hammond, though signed to entry-level deals are actually under tryout agreements for this season, but have entry-level deals that take effect next season. The blank space for this season's contracts on capgeek suggests as much. If my inferences stand correct, it's some deft maneuvering by Senators management to toy with the 50-player cap.
Though this signing serves an immediate purpose for the team in Binghamton and adds slightly to the Senators' goaltending depth, it will be most notable for the conjecture and speculation that arises as a result. Rumours abounding because of Ottawa's depth in nets are sure to feed off of this signing. I would exercise a word of caution, but upon second thought, where's the fun in that?