Commenting on his mentality at the start of the 2021 season, goaltender Filip Gustavsson shared this on Zoom with a group of journalists covering the Senators:
“I got traded here and I felt like I had a lot of pressure and I wanted to succeed myself. You see other players in the same age group, and you see them having success with the national team and stuff, and I wasn’t having it. That just puts more pressure on yourself. Then, you give up one bad goal or you have a bad game and you feel even worse and you start digging yourself a grave. This year I came over, knowing it was my last year of the contract, I just thought if this is going to be my last year overseas I might as well just have fun and don’t care too much about the results. Just have fun with the guys.”
That worked. As reported first by the invaluable CapFriendly, the Senators have signed Gustavsson to a two-year contract extension:
#Sens sign G Filip Gustavsson— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) August 29, 2021
2 year contract
2-way in year 1, and 1-way in year 2
2021-22: $750,000 / $125,000
The deal buys Ottawa 1 RFA year and 1 RFA Arb year. https://t.co/iAsWj7uLEy
Gustavsson will still be a restricted free agent, under team control with arbitration rights at the expiry of this deal.
The 23-year-old Skellefteå born netminder had his best season in a Senators sweater, putting up a team-leading 0.933% save-percentage in nine games in the NHL and a career-best 0.910% in 13 games with Belleville. Gustavsson started the pandemic-ridden year in Sweden’s second-tier men’s league, the Allsvenskan, putting up a 0.919% in 19 games with Södertälje SK — a mark good enough to rank fifth among goaltenders with 10+ starts. Gustavsson’s season likely won him a protection spot over fan favourite Joey Daccord, who was eventually selected by the Seattle Kraken in the NHL Expansion Draft.
The deal adds clarity to the short-term future of the Senators goaltending pipeline. The team currently has Matt Murray signed for three more years and Anton Forsberg for one at the NHL level, with the latter signed to a deal worth 900k. Gustavsson might have a legitimate shot at beating out Forsberg for a backup position this year and if not, will be the first call-up from the AHL, where he expects to be Belleville’s starter while being challenged by 20-year-old Mads Søgaard for games. Next season, Gustavsson has a NHL spot locked up, with Søgaard and Mandolese scheduled for further AHL time to develop their young careers. The team will be keeping a close eye on Finnish netminder Leevi Meriläinen in Kingston, where he will play OHL hockey before turning pro in 2022 or 2023.