During practice this afternoon, Brian Elliott was pulled off of the ice and was told by management that he had been dealt to the Colorado Avalanche. It’s a bittersweet moment for me. Although the trade likely puts an end to the use of the awesome PhotoShopped picture that adorns this article, Elliott game has languished since November when he had the highest goals versus threshold rating (GVT) on the team. And in light of the -10.0 GVT that he currently sports, it’s hard to believe that the Senators received anything of substance for his services. Even if it means another struggling netminder is coming to town.
More on the trade after the jump…
In a departure from his recent moves that saw veteran players traded exclusively for draft picks, GM Bryan Murray acquired goaltender Craig Anderson from the Colorado Avalanche. Here is a look at his numbers:
As you can see, Anderson has obviously not been able to replicate the success that he had last season. Despite the drop in his peripherals, it didn’t stop me from mentioning his name as part of an article last week that addressed which players I would be inclined to pursue in free agency:
With Leclaire (UFA) and Elliott (RFA) headed towards free agency, I would let both players go. The decision to let Leclaire go is a no-brainer and Elliott has played in a large enough sample of games to understand that it’s unlikely that he will ever develop into a number one goaltender. And if Robin Lehner is going to play in the NHL next season, Elliott has to go.
To help groom Lehner, you need a reliable veteran and judging by the market, there are many to be had. I would probably refrain from signing Tomas Vokoun, even if he is markedly more talented than anyone else featured on the list. As a 34-year old netminder who is earning $5.7-million, this will likely be his last big payday and you have to imagine that this weak free agent class will cause some inane GM to overpay in money and term. Or maybe all those years of losing in Florida will prompt Vokoun to sign on with a contender and forego a massive payout.
From Ottawa’s perspective, it’s counter-intuitive to invest a ton of money into Vokoun if they believe that Lehner will command 50-percent or more of the starts within the next one to three seasons. On a rebuilding team, a good goaltender’s effect is negated anyways and it’s probably better for the Senators to accrue lower draft picks. So why not save the extra dough and pursue a cheap, short-term alternative – Dwayne Roloson, Craig Anderson, Mathieu Garon – than get stuck with an expensive contract that they’ll have difficulty moving down the road? ~ The Mike Fisher Inspired Mailbag / Tweetbag
By trading for Anderson now, the Senators have acquired a low-risk player who is one season removed from the NHL’s 19th best GVT rating. Over at The Goalie Guild, there is this assessment of what has caused Anderson to struggle this season:
I see a goalie who no longer has the same work ethic he displayed and sustained all of last season. He has allowed frustrations to overwhelm his mind and he no longer has the intense, fiery focus and attitude that made him successful last year. The reasons for this are something I can only speculate on, but it’s clearly visible when I watch him play. The recent “personal leave” he took last week has only seemed to eliminate what little focus he had.
I honestly think the injuries he sustained earlier in this season are also nagging him. Last year, Anderson thrived by being desperate and by diving around his crease in order to get pieces of shots. He’s not the most fundamentally sound goalie, so his big body and athleticism allowed him to simply get in the way of a lot of shots. His competitive attitude allowed him to be a terrific “second effort” goalie and that helped him make the numerous timely saves that powered the Avalanche on most nights last year.
This year, I just haven’t seen that second effort and that intense work ethic anymore. He seems hesitant and unsure of himself on most nights. He doesn’t seem comfortable or relaxed. He has a couple of strong games that result in tough losses and the frustration mounts. He becomes disinterested or defeated after a goal is allowed and he doesn’t seem as engaged afterwards. In practices,many viewers and scouts say that he doesn’t work nearly as hard as last year. I’ve heard this from a number of people and I’ve seen it for myself on more than a couple of occasions. ~ Dissecting Budaj and Anderson’s Struggles, The Goalie Guild
It’s a mutually beneficial situation that he now finds himself in. Maybe all that Anderson needs is a change in scenery that removes him from the increased expectations and pressures that stemmed from Colorado’s surprising success last season. Thanks to an inexperienced Lehner and a hypochondriacal Leclaire, it shouldn’t take much for Anderson to seize the opportunity and capture the number one job.
It’s a win-win deal for Ottawa. Elliott will never amount to anything more than a backup goaltender in the NHL and with Lehner expected to fulfill that role next season, he was expendable. In trading for Anderson now, the Senators have given themselves an exclusive window of opportunity to negotiate a contract extension with him before he hits the free agent market on July 1st. Yes, there is risk that Anderson could turn his season around and cash in on the open market but considering the mediocre stats that Anderson has accumulated to this point, he should be relatively inexpensive. In fact, it’s probably in Anderson’s best interests to start negotiating a deal now so that he won’t hit a market saturated with alternatives.