The Ducks have signed goalie Frederik Andersen to a 2 year contract extension. It's a 1-way contract, so he will get paid his NHL salary with the Ducks or with the Admirals. He is signed for $1 million in the 1st season and $1.3 million in the 2nd season, for an annual cap hit of $1.15 million. With him signed for 2 more years, the Ducks goaltending situation is becoming a little clearer, but there are still many factors that will determine the future of the Anaheim goal crease.
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I believe that the Ducks have enough confidence in Andersen that they want him to be the backup in Anaheim next season. And even though he's only played 100 minutes in the NHL, he's starting to make me a believer too. I didn't get to see his game against Ottawa (I got to listen to some of it on the radio though), but I did see him against Dallas and he played very well. He made a number of high quality saves and no pucks got behind him. While he's not ready to be an NHL starter (I would argue that he's pretty far from it), I could see him being ready to be an NHL backup next season, or maybe even later this season.
And that brings me to my next point, who will be the 2 goaltenders in Anaheim when the season is over? And who will be in net next season. Currently, both Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth were to be counted on for a lot of starts this season, possibly even splitting the load for a while until someone played well enough to take over the starters job. And so far in this young season, there is no question that Hiller has been the better goaltender. While he can be inconsistent (I think the vertigo is still and always will effect him), he has the skills to be a starting goaltender and lead this team to the playoffs.
Fasth played in 25 games last year and had .921 save percentage, damn good numbers. But he never looked perfectly comfortable. Also, 25 games is about what a backup would play in a full season. And, because of injury, he has only played in 3 games this year, and hasn't looked great. He got absolutely blitzed in Colorado, but did pick up wins against Winnipeg and Calgary, and played particularly well against Calgary.
So, ideally, it would appear that Hiller is the starter and that Fasth is the backup for the season, and then Andersen would become the backup next year, replacing Fasth, who would either move on or replace Hiller. But it's the contract situation that makes this tricky. With his 2 year extension, Andersen is now the longest signed goalie (apart from Gibson, more on him in a bit) with the team. Fasth is signed through next season at an affordable cap hit of $2.9 million, while Hiller is a free agent this summer and can walk away from this team. Coming into this season, I believed that the Ducks would trade one of Fasth or Hiller (possibly in a package deal with one of the many young wingers on this team and maybe a depth defenseman to get back back a #2 center or a top pairing dman) and promote Andersen to the role of backup. His new contract has only reinforced that belief.
The question is, who gets traded? Depending on when the trade happens, Hiller could be a good rental option for a team heading into the playoffs who needs goaltending depth (Pittsburgh anyone?). But players who are signed to longer deals often bring back more in a trade, so if Fasth gets healthy and plays well, he could be worth more on the trade market to a team who needs help in net both this season and beyond (Edmonton anyone?). But, if the Ducks were to trade Fasth, they could only do so if Hiller were signed. Trading Fasth with an unsigned Hiller is about the stupidest thing the Ducks could do. And a Hiller signing would come down to money and term.
I firmly believe that the Ducks feel that John Gibson is the future in net for this team, it's only a question of when. If the Ducks feel he is a season or 2 away, signing Hiller to a long term deal doesn't make much sense. But, if they want to let him play a couple years in the minors and then a year or 2 as a backup in Anaheim, signing Hiller to a 3 or 4 year extension would make a lot of sense. Currently, Gibson has only played in 5 games for the Norfolk Admirals, but he has posted very good numbers. While he only has 2 wins, he has a goals against average of 1.53 and a save percentage of .952, with 1 shutout. And while 5 games is a very small sample size, those are some damn good numbers. Personally, I'm of the opinion that Gibson should not be rushed, he's still very young (he turned 20 this past July) and spending a couple of years in Norfolk as the starter I think would be good for his development.
If the Ducks do go this route, then I think giving Hiller an extension (as long as he doesn't want a huge salary that is) makes a lot of sense. While I'd be fine with giving Hiller a raise from his currently salary of $4.5 million, I don't believe that he's worth $6 million+. He's good, but he's not elite, unless he just heats up and puts together a monster of a season. But I think that he is too inconsistent to do that, I hope I'm wrong, but so far this season he's played some great games, and a couple of clunkers as well. So it remains to be seen how good he will be this season. But, if they want Gibson in Anaheim sooner rather than later, then keeping Fasth for another season or 2 makes sense. Fasth is cheap and could probably be convinced to sign another shortish contract when his current one expires. Basically, what I'm saying is I think the Ducks will base who they will trade on a 20 year old goalie playing in the AHL, because of his potential with this team. While that may seem ludicrous to some (I admit, it sounds crazy to me), there are a lot people who think he is the real deal, and he's played great in International Competition, both at the junior level and the World Championships. I've never seen him play and have no idea if he can reach that potential, but I'm hopeful. And, as listed above, the other factors would be who will pull in the better return and will Hiller even sign an extension and for how much.
If either Hiller or Fasth brings in a significantly better return than the other, then I hope the Ducks elect to trade that goalie. And if Hiller won't sign an extension with the team, then it's best for the team to trade him and get a good return, as long as Fasth is healthy and playing well. If he's not, then the Ducks need to keep Hiller, and hopefully sign him to an extension.
Quick injury update. The good news, Dustin Penner is concussion symptom free and may play tomorrow in Columbus, which is excellent news because it was just announced that the Ducks lost 2 players to injury last night in Ottawa. Mathieu Perreault left the game with what appears to be a sprained wrist (it's listed as an upper body injury), and is day to day. He may play tomorrow, but if not, expect the Ducks to recall a center from Norfolk (Holland may finally get his chance). But, in much worse news, Jakob Silfverberg suffered a broken hand in last nights game and will miss the next 4 to 6 weeks. He has 4 goals and 7 points in 11 games this season. The Ducks are going to need more from some of their other young wingers (Etem and Palmieri) to offset this loss, and hopefully Penner can get back to the form he was in before he was concussed.
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