Senators assistant general manager Pierre Dorion participated in a media conference call to delve into the details surrounding the organization’s motivations for inking Craig Anderson to a three-year contract extension.
In case you missed it this morning, I published some thoughts of my own, but if you’d like to listen to Dorion’s conference call, you can click here or listen to the embedded audio at the bottom of this post.
As always, my thoughts are in bold.
On why now and why the length of the term?
“For us, it was a situation that we felt Craig (Anderson) had played some great hockey for us in the past three years and we just felt signing Craig to that kind of term was what we wanted. He plays with us (until) he’s in his mid-30’s and we feel that goalies through the years, even right now, are still performing at that age. We just felt that early in the summer, as I mentioned to you, we wanted to get Robin (Lehner) done first and with Craig going on the last year – being a pending UFA – we just felt that in signing Craig, we probably have one of the best tandems in the league and that’s just the route that we decided to take.”
Some studies have found that “goaltender performance does degrade with age and the peak is pretty early in most careers. But on average, most goalies can maintain a decent performance well into their 30s,” so that sort of fits with what Dorion is saying about goaltender performances. I don’t anticipate Anderson’s numbers falling off a cliff by the time he enters into his extension, but I wouldn’t recommend people holding him to that standard of play that he exhibited during his 24-game sample size in the lockout shortened 2012/13 campaign.
On how he foresees the organization going forward in the fall and beyond…
“Well I think it’s a great thing for the Ottawa Senators having two guys that we feel that can be number one (starters); two guys that can go in the net at any point in time and win games. I think they work well with each other. They’re going to push each other and I think it’s only a good thing for our team and our fans.”
I’m not sure why anyone would expect him to say something differently. It’s not like journalists or fans need Pierre to fan the flames to create a goaltending controversy narrative. Ottawa’s become pretty good at it on their own over the past number of years.
On whether there is any concern as to how the two will coexist knowing that there may not be a true number one…
“No, for us, there was not a concern. For us, it was a very simple thought process. We felt as a management group and always through Bryan Murray that having two guys that can just win games for us was something important. And both guys push each other. I just talked to Bryan a few minutes ago before I came on this call and I said, ‘They’re probably going to ask me who’s going to play,’ and he said, ‘Just tell them Pierre, whoever wins games.’”
For a ballyhooed goaltending prospect who won a Calder Cup at such a young age, the Senators have been pretty hesitant to hand the ball over to Robin Lehner and let him run with it. Admittedly, things haven’t gone that smoothly for Lehner. Maturity questions and his ability to handle his emotions on and off the ice have dogged him. From his infamous hunting comments to the team’s acquisition of Ben Bishop to provide a proverbial boot in the ass to Lehner via some internal competition to be the heir apparent, he’s come out of each incident for the better.
Bishop would move on and we keep waiting for Lehner to supplant Anderson as the team’s number one. Having played parts of four seasons with the organization, it feels like it’s taking longer than it should, but sometimes it’s easy to forget that Lehner’s only 23 years old.
On having flexibility with this contract in terms of being able to move Anderson…
“Well I think both of our goalies have a no-trade clause or don’t have a no-trade clause – however you want to phrase it. But I think every negotiation is different. Compare it to the Clarke MacArthur or the Mark Borowiecki or Eric Gryba, guys that we’ve bought UFA years on, we just did the same with Craig. We just felt as a management group here that this was important – that there was no type of (limiting trade) clause in the contract. But in saying that, Robin doesn’t have any type of clause in his contract and for us, it was just something that in the negotiation that we felt was important.”
Okay, so the good news is that the organization has some measure of control should it decide that it wants to move either goaltender.
On whether Robin Lehner was aware of management’s plans with what they were going to do with Craig when the Senators were negotiating their extension with him…
“I’m not sure he was aware, but we’ve been very up front with our players and their respective agents. When we signed Robin, his agents were aware that we were working on an extension with Craig and when we were talking with Craig’s agent, they were aware that we were trying to get a deal done with Robin, so I think both parties knew. I think it got leaked that I was in Chicago last week talking with Craig’s agent and Justin came to Ottawa this past weekend and that’s how we got the deal done.”
On how negotiations with Ryan and Methot are going…
“Umm, as far as negotiations with Ryan… I’ll just be general on both of them, but as far as negotiations with Ryan, as recently as today, both Bryan Murray and myself spoke with Mark Guy and Donny Meehan. Bryan alluded to this I think on the call with his comments with Clarke MacArthur that we don’t foresee anything happening until we think Bobby (Ryan) comes to town. But so far the negotiations have been very productive. And as far as Marc Methot, as recently as the end of last week, myself, I had conversations with Larry (Kelly) – always going through Bryan (Murray) – and we feel that we’re still talking. Again, these are pending unrestricted free agents, so it’s not a case where you have to go to arbitration next week and there’s a deadline. We’re still working hard at both and we feel confident that at some point in time, we can get deals done for both.”
The risks involved in moving forward and opening the season with both players unsigned have been well chronicled, but if management is confident that they can get deals done, fans will have no choice but to wait and see. If they fail to re-sign either player, maximize their value in a trade or lose either player for nothing to free agency because the Senators are trying to chase a playoff spot, it will be a colossal failure in asset management.
On the timing of all these contracts getting done in August…
“Obviously we’d like to have all our contracts done on July 1st at 6:00 pm, so all of us can have a good summer, but these things take time. If I go back, what we did is, Eugene (Melnyk) has allowed us to spend quite a bit of money here to ensure that we’re going to have a very competitive team. We signed a guy like Gryba, we bought a year of UFA. We signed a guy like Mark Borowiecki, we bought a year of UFA. We signed Clarke MacArthur, we bought five years of UFA. We sign a guy like Craig Anderson, we buy another three years of UFA. So the timing sometimes it just works. If the player contacts his agent and tells him to start negotiating with us or he’d like to have a deal, sometimes players want to play their seasons out. So I think it’s a case by case situation. Obviously we’d always want to have our contracts done sooner rather than later, but sometimes it’s also good for our side to have things play out.”
It’s also good for our side to have things play out? Cue the outcry from fans bemoaning the Colin Greening signing.
On what’s the benefit is of getting the deals done now as opposed to waiting until closer to when these players hit UFA…
“Well obviously there’s less distractions and less stories for (the media) to talk about – which I apologize (for). But I think it’s just, I think in a way, it shows our fans that we’re trying to do things as well and efficiently and as possible. But the biggest thing is no distractions. (The players) also know that the guys are going to be around here for quite a number of years. I think it’s a sign from our ownership just to show that we’re making a long-term commitment here for as long as we can. So those are all things that come into play for us.”
Bam. This is the most important quote from Dorion. If a large part of the motivation for an Anderson extension was because management believes that they can use it as a vehicle to show fans and its players that ownership is committed to spending money and making long-term commitments, then it’s safe to assume that players like Marc Methot and Bobby Ryan really want to see this organization not only be able to afford the impending 2015 UFAs, but to also be able to add and augment a roster that missed the playoffs last season.
The organization simply can’t gloss over the fact that veteran talent like Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky left or Ryan and Methot can still leave simply by pointing out that they’ve signed Clarke MacArthur and Craig Anderson.
That’s not good enough and if the Senators can’t field a more competitive roster, maybe ownership needs to take a hard look in the mirror and re-evaluate its strategy of fielding an inexpensive roster in hopes that the team can sneak into the playoffs and luck into a favourable first round match up where “anything can happen”.