When the Senators acquired Mike Condon from the Pittsburgh Penguins for a 2017 fifth round pick on November 2, it was sold as a move that was necessary because the Senators’ goaltending situation was in a state of flux.
Not only did the Anderson family come forward and reveal that Nicholle Anderson was diagnosed with cancer, but Andrew Hammond suffered a lower-body injury shortly thereafter that necessitated a stint on IR.
Rather than roll the dice and rely on the uncertainty facing Craig Anderson’s availability or hope that a young goaltending combination of Chris Driedger or Matt O’Connor could stem the tide, the Senators sought NHL experience to help shelter their goaltending prospects and help keep their playoff aspirations alive.
Through his first two games, Mike Condon played well. He apparently played well enough to play Andrew Hammond off of the roster.
With a couple of teams looking at goaltending help, hearing OTT is testing the market on Andrew Hammond. We’ll see what evolves.
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) November 14, 2016
It’s not really clear what kind of return the Senators are looking for, but given Hammond’s performance this season, maybe the Senators won’t be asking for much…
Given the fact Hammond’s name has surfaced on the trade market you have to think waivers are an option if he can’t be dealt. #Sens
— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) November 15, 2016
Or you know, maybe they’re asking for nothing at all.
On the surface, it’s hard to believe that the Senators would be so willing to make this kind of call at this juncture of the season given we’re talking about two goaltenders who have combined to play in four games: two by Condon and two for Hammond.
Sure, Hammond hasn’t been great, but his track record certainly looks better on paper than that of Condon. Even if we look past his historical 2014-15 season in which he riddled off a 20-1-2 record with a 1.79 GAA and a .941 save percentage, his numbers last year were better than anything Mike Condon’s thrown together over the course of a large sample size.
Rob Vollman’s quality start metric measures whether a goaltender gave his team a chance to win. In order to record a quality start, a starting goalie must either stop a greater percentage of shots than the league average save percentage or at least play as well as a replacement-level goalie when allowing two goals or fewer.
According to this metric which is available on Hockey-Reference.com, Hammond’s recorded a 61.9-percent quality start rate last season. Not only did he finish ahead of Craig Anderson’s 51.7-percent mark, he was miles ahead of Condon’s 47.1-percent rate.
Digging a little deeper using Corsica.Hockey’s data, I looked into the variety of five-on-five save percentages from the start of the 2015-16 season to now. Not surprisingly, Hammond comes out way ahead in five-on-five save percentage, five-on-five save percentage on high danger scoring chances and five-on-five medium danger scoring chances.
Keep in mind, this is only looking at Hammond’s numbers after his ridiculous 2014-15 season. If you include that run, the disparity in the numbers only gets bigger.
So why are the Senators so quick to send Hammond packing if they have a choice between the two goaltenders?
It’s a great question.
I’d hate to think that this is another instance where the Senators are falling into a small sample size trap, but maybe there are legitimate reasons to consider seeing what could be fetched in return for Hammond.
If the organization believes that it needs help (and it does) and that Hammond can be used as a chip to address a need, then maybe it’s prudent to gauge the market and see what’s available if other organizations are suffering through goaltender injuries and inadequate performance.
Conversely, this could be an instance where the Senators flipped a fifth rounder for Condon and believe that they could fetch a higher pick for Hammond which could then be used to draft a prospect or flipped in a separate deal to help fill a need later on.
Or maybe this is simply an instance where the Senators believe that the performance drop isn’t sizable enough and they just want to dump Hammond’s salary so that the organization can save itself some money because they’re pressed up against their own internal budget.
By absorbing Condon’s $575,000 one-year contract on waivers and dumping Hammond’s $1.35-million salary – assuming the Senators don’t take on salary in return – the team could save itself $775,000 this season.
It’s not a ton of money, but if there’s a silver lining in this scenario, it’s that the decision to slash payroll could possibly create financial flexibility for the Senators to make another move at some point later this season.
The fear is that the Senators might very well be close to dumping the better goaltender not only because of a small sample size of games but because they are also looking to save some money. Given the cost cutting that has gone on elsewhere within the organization, it’s hard to shake this nagging feeling that money is what’s principally driving the Senators’ decision to explore the Hammond market.
Now maybe the Senators truly believe that Condon’s the better goalie relative to the cost involved, but for a team that lives on the margins, the Senators need to get moves like this one right. If Anderson is felled by injury or has to miss a number of games down the road as his wife receives treatment for cancer, there’s going to be substantial pressure on Condon to carry the load and win meaningful games.
If I had to put on the GM hat and make that call, I’d have a hard time backing Condon. Not only am I not confident in his ability to be the better goaltender going forward, he’s also an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season while Hammond has one more year at $1.5-million in real dollars left on his deal – meaning, that barring a Condon extension, the Senators will need to fill this void next offseason.