The Ottawa Senators announced the club signed veteran goaltender Craig Anderson to a three-year extension worth $12.6 million Monday. With one year remaining on his current contract, the 33-year-old will remain with the team through 2017-18.
Anderson's extension comes on the heels of the Senators re-signing backup netminder Robin Lehner to a three-year extension as well. It appeared as though Lehner was the starter of the future, but the extension awarded to Anderson says otherwise unless the team plans on taking the tandem approach over the next few years.
The $4.2 annual average on the new contract for Anderson represents a raise of more than $1 million after an average season in 2013-14.
The veteran goalie posted a .911 save percentage, 3.00 goals-against average and 25-16-8 record in 53 appearances. That was a far cry from the performance he turned in before going down with injury during 2012-13. Anderson received Vezina consideration for that campaign in which he turned in a .941 save percentage and 1.69 goals-against average in 24 appearances.
Ottawa is Anderson's fourth NHL stop and it's where he's grown into a true No. 1 goalie. In 158 career appearances for the Senators, Anderson has a .920 save percentage and 2.62 goals against average. He has an 81-52-17 record with 12 shutouts as well.
Perhaps the club feels that Lehner needs more time before he can take the No. 1 job, but it looked like 2014-15 was the year to find out if he could handle it with Anderson's deal coming to its end. Now he'll have to battle with Anderson over the next few seasons and possibly not get the reps he'll need to continue improving as a professional.
Multi-year extensions for goalies over the age of 30 are risky in general, but riskier still when it blocks a promising young goaltender that could well be in the job for years to come. This also could complicate the team's next negotiation with the 23-year-old Lehner, who will be a restricted free agent when his contract expires in 2016.
In general, goaltenders have been shown to start the statistical decline in their career after age 30 and it only gets worse with each year after that. Anderson will be 37 when his new deal wraps up. He had below-average numbers already last season and has an understudy that needs to see a good share of the action.
Not only that, but if the Senators want to re-sign forward Bobby Ryan, and they should, it's becoming less feasible. He is likely to command a heavy cap hit if he is to give up on unrestricted free agency after the 2014-15 season. The Senators will have the cap space to do it, but this is a team that seems to have a budget well under the salary cap ceiling. Owner Eugene Melnyk will have to be ready to open the wallet even wider to keep Ryan in Ottawa.
Considering the team's budgetary constraints, spending big on a 33-year-old goalie coming off a down year doesn't seem sensible, especially not with the Ryan extension negotiations looming overhead and a younger, cheaper goalie looking ready for more responsibility.