TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs took a big swing at solving the future of their crease early Monday night.
The Leafs dealt for Danish goaltender Frederik Andersen, landing the 26-year-old from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for the 30th overall selection in the upcoming NHL draft as well as a second round selection in 2017.
Lamoriello said he loved the size and competitiveness of Andersen, who is six foot four and 225 pounds, also describing his athleticism as “exceptional.” He said the calibre of the goaltender made the cost worthwhile for the Leafs.
“The price was secondary,” said Lamoriello.
Toronto has agreed to terms on a new contract with Andersen, due to be a restricted free agent on July 1, inking him to a five-year deal.
“I think that he has to know that he’s our No. 1 goaltender and that the support is there, the confidence is there and the commitment’s there,” Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello said on a conference call.
Splitting the Ducks goaltending duties with John Gibson this past season, Andersen went 22-9-7 during the regular season with a respectable .919 save percentage in 43 games. He also boasted a sterling .947 save percentage in five playoff starts this spring.
Toronto used one piece of the return for Phil Kessel in the deal, swinging the 30th overall pick, once belonging to the Penguins, over to the Ducks in exchange for Andersen. The Leafs had a pile of draft picks to play with after dealing out numerous roster players over the past two seasons. The club still has 11 selections for this weekend’s draft, including the No. 1 overall pick.
The Leafs are betting on Andersen to solve a long-term need at the goaltending position, one that was woefully thin internally.
Jonathan Bernier was seen as the hopeful piece of that future as recently as last summer, when Toronto re-signed him to a two-year deal, but he struggled mightily at times under head coach Mike Babcock last season and stands now as the backup option to Andersen.
James Reimer, long a core component of the Toronto crease, was dealt to San Jose at the trade deadline, while 22-year-old Garret Sparks mostly stumbled through his first NHL test, posting an .893 save percentage in 17 starts.
Whether Andersen can become the source of stability the Leafs desire is the long-term question.
His first three NHL seasons suggest the upside is there. Just this past season Andersen owned a .928 even-strength save percentage that was equal to Vezina trophy candidate Braden Holtby and the Kings Jonathan Quick.
He still must show that he has the mental resolve and durability to thrive as a No. 1.
A third round pick of the Ducks in 2012, Andersen has started more than 50 games just once in his first three NHL seasons. He battled with Gibson for ice time this past season, starting 37 games to 38 for his competitor, while also missing time at various points with injury.
The two combined to win the Jennings Trophy for the NHL’s lowest goals-against average.
The 22-year-old Gibson is seen as the Ducks long-term solution at the position, allowing the Stanley Cup contender, which also recently rehired Randy Carlyle as head coach, to move Andersen, who was unable to come to terms with the club on a new deal.
“We were too far apart, I think,” Andersen said. “At the end of the day it didn’t work out. Now I’m just happy about being in a spot, a big hockey market. It’s going to be a lot of fun developing with this young team that’s very hungry for success and it’s going to be a very good experience.”