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If this is indeed it for Craig Anderson with the Ottawa Senators there won’t be any chance for a fond farewell at the Canadian Tire Centre.
You can call it a passing of the torch, but with just over two weeks to the start of unrestricted free agency on Oct. 9 at noon, it certainly feels like the 39-year-old Anderson has suited up for his final game with the Senators after nearly a decade in the organization.
The plan right now is for the Senators to go with Anders Nilsson and Marcus Hogberg whenever the 2020-21 campaign gets under way and there’s been no shortage of speculation that Ottawa has been amongst a number of teams kicking tires on the goaltending market which is flush with talent at the moment.
Nilsson hasn’t played since Dec. 16 when he suffered a concussion and though he was close to a return before the trade deadline in February it didn’t happen because he was re-injured. General manager Pierre Dorion told reporters in April that Nilsson had passed a baseline test, but it’s not known if he’s been skating.
While Anderson suited up for the club’s final game before the NHL went on pause March 11 in 3-2 loss against the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center, nobody was sure at the time that would indeed be Ottawa’s last game of the year but when the Return to Play was finalized there was no sense in bringing the Senators back.
As time ticked away because of the outbreak of COVID-19 so did Anderson’s chance of playing here again.
It would have made sense for coach D.J. Smith to start Anderson in what was scheduled to be the club’s final regular season game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on April 4 at the Canadian Tire Centre and the fan base would have had the opportunity to see No. 41, in the net, perhaps, for the last time.
Acquired from the Colorado Avalanche on Feb. 18, 2011 in exchange for Brian Elliott, legendary general manager Bryan Murray made the deal because he wanted to see if Anderson could be stabilize the net. He did more than that for the club, he went on to become the winningest goalie in franchise history.
In this day and age, that kind of longevity in the net is almost unheard of and Anderson often points out himself that he cleared waivers twice in his career when he was trying to establish himself at this level.
He has a 202-168-46 record with a .914 save-percentage in 435 appearances in the club’s net since he arrived in Ottawa. Anderson recorded his 200th win with 23 saves in a 7-4 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Feb. 18, the same night Chris Phillips had his No. 4 lifted to the rafters at the building.
Nobody will forget the club’s brilliant run to the Eastern Conference final with Anderson in the net in 2017 while his wife Nicholle was battling a rare form of throat cancer. He was named the recipient of the Masterton Trophy that spring and the day after Ottawa was eliminated he informed the media the morning of Game 7 against the Pittsburgh Penguins he learned Nicholle was cancer-free.
Down the road, when life returns to normal, it would make sense for the Senators to honour Anderson and his tremendous career here. Yes, he’s a strong candidate to have his number retired or be placed in the club’s Ring of Honour with Murray, who was the first name inducted.
If the Senators don’t bring Anderson back, this may not be it for him and his career.
Yes, there’s a lot of goalies on the market with veterans like Braden Holtby (Washington), Corey Crawford (Chicago), Robin Lehner (Vegas), Jimmy Howard (Detroit), Jacob Markstrom (Vancouver), Anton Khudobin (Dallas), Cam Talbot (Calgary) and Mike Smith (Edmonton) available, but that doesn’t Anderson won’t be able to find work.
He hasn’t lost his competitive fire, however, he could be a capable backup for a team that wants to be a playoff contender next season. The Florida Panthers signed Sergei Bovrovsky to a massive deal last summer and somehow it’s always just felt like Anderson may finish his career in the Sunshine State.
Anderson makes his off-season home in Coral Springs, Fla., where the Panthers practice facility is located, and last season his wife Nicholle stayed in Florida with the couple’s two children while Anderson suited up for the final year of his contract with the Senators.
Though the long break may not be good for some veteran players, the rest may be just what Anderson needs and since the schedule is going to be compressed next season he’d probably no issue if he went into a situation where he was called upon to play 25-to-30 games.
The Senators have six goaltending prospects in the organization and Hogberg is signed to a one-year deal at $800,000 to be the backup. Ottawa didn’t approach Anderson about moving him at the deadline and if there were any discussions with other teams they didn’t elevate to the point where they were serious.
We’re just over two weeks from free agency and time is slow ticking away on Anderson’s time here.
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