The curious case of Frederik Andersen: NHL’s lowest-paid No. 1

Watch as Frederik Andersen makes an insane stop to keep the Blackhawks from taking a 4-1 lead in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals.

Just when it looked like the Anaheim Ducks had settled on a clear-cut No. 1 goaltender, they went and traded for one more.

During the Ducks’ run to within one game of the 2015 Stanley Cup final, Frederik Andersen had done what it took three Anaheim goalies to do the previous spring: mind the net for the entire post-season.

The two goaltenders who reached the final, Ben Bishop and Corey Crawford, were pulled en route. Andersen never was.

So it came as a bit of a head-scratcher when, on June 27, general manager Bob Murray traded for Carolina backup Anton Khudobin, who is entering the final year of an expiring contract that pays him $2.5 million this season.

At the time of the trade, Murray said he wanted to add stability in net.

“That was interesting to see,” Andersen told Sportsnet during a sit-down earlier this month. “I talked to Bob about it. He explained what his thoughts were, and that kinda helped me out, [understanding] what he was thinking.”

So, what was his message to you?

“I’m not going to share that,” said Andersen, his voice soft and low, his guard up.

Rolling three goalies deep allows Anaheim to overcome injuries and prevents Ilya Bryzgalov comebacks. Khudobin has yet to seize a starter’s spot, but both Tuukaa Rask and Cam Ward excelled with him backing them up.

On Monday, Murray signed 22-year-old goalie John Gibson to a three-year, $6.9-million contract. (Gibson can play in the AHL this season without clearing waivers.) Andersen’s own contract, which carries a bargain $1.15-million salary cap hit, ends July 1.

If the all-in Ducks seize their window and hoist the Cup this spring, they will likely do so with lowest-paid No. 1 goaltender in the entire National Hockey League.

Andersen, a 25-year-old Dane, is the Ducks’ No. 1 entering 2015-16, but he’s not even the highest-paid nor most secure goalie on the roster. Despite a great 11-5 record and .913 save percentage in the 2015 playoffs, Andersen is not certain he’ll get the start on opening night.

“You never know,” he said, almost in a whisper, “but I’m going to keep working my hardest and prove that I deserve to be where I am.”

When the Ducks fell to the eventual champion Chicago Blackhawks 5-3 in Game 7 of the Western final, Andersen allowed those five goals on just 26 shots. Though coach Bruce Boudreau refused to lay blame in his crease, Andersen spun that loss into motivation this summer. He devoted himself to his conditioning, getting stronger, quicker, and even more mentally sharp.

“All of us in the group, we want to get back there and win the Cup this year,” Andersen said. “That’s our goal every year — to win — and I’m sure management sees this year the same way.”

The best thing Andersen did this summer was take batting practice with his favourite baseball team, the Angels, as Mike Trout watched. He goes to Angel Stadium often, has thrown out the first pitch, and has become a massive baseball fan — a rarity in Denmark.

“Pretty much no one [in Denmark] knows about baseball. It’s odd that I like it,” Andersen said. “I had a friend in Denmark that played that’s from New York, and he introduced me to the sport.”

Andersen attended a few Yankees games live when they won the World Series in 2009 and has been hooked since.

Considering the vantage point and extra equipment and what White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers told us, we suggest the catcher and goaltender play similar roles. Andersen disagrees.

“I’m more drawn to the pitcher, the mental part. It’s not really just in your hands, even though you’re the pitcher. You can only do so much,” he explained.

“You still gotta carry your team to a certain point, then you gotta get the at-bats from your teammates, too — to get runs and get wins.”

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