In the past two years, Senators fans have become numb to the shock of seeing established stars traded away for prospects and draft picks.
Here’s hoping the fan base will pause to appreciate the services rendered by the likes of Craig Anderson, Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Mark Borowiecki, should any or all of these remaining ‘old guard’ stalwarts move before the Feb. 24 trade deadline.
Of the three veterans (with several more unrestricted free agents also up for grabs), Pageau is the top asset likely to go; Borowiecki, the stay-at-home, hometown defenceman, seems most likely to stay and sign a short-term deal.
Anderson, 38 but healthy, is an interesting option for playoff-bound teams looking for insurance at the goaltending position.
After Wednesday’s practice, Anderson was besieged by media wondering what he was thinking prior to the trade deadline.
“That was like a playoff scrum,” Anderson said, when it was over.
Asked by Sportsnet.ca if he would consider moving to a contender (he has a 10-team no-trade list), Anderson hinted that he would reluctantly do so.
“You know, my heart and soul is here in Ottawa, with the fan base, with the organization and with the guys in here,” Anderson said. “If something were to happen it would definitely be a hard transition, a hard day. But we’ll see. I don’t want to speculate. I will cross that bridge when it happens, but as of right now – if something were to happen, that would be a sad day.”
Anderson says he has had no discussions with management about approving any trade, and will leave most of that to his agent and Senators general manager Pierre Dorion.
Anderson is expected to decide after the season if he wants to continue his career, but at the moment he’s still committed to playing.
“There’s been spurts throughout the year where I keep proving to myself that I can compete at this level,” Anderson said. “Then there’s other times where you go through a rough patch. But that’s no different than when I was 25 or 30. Everybody kind of goes through the ups and downs of a year. It’s a matter of staying mentally tough, mentally strong, knowing in my heart I still want to compete.
“That’s what it comes down to. If it’s still in my heart and I still want to be here then I’ll perform well. As of right now that is still beating pretty strong.”
The Senators are deep in goaltending prospects. And with Anders Nilsson (currently recovering from a concussion) and the emerging Marcus Hogberg under contract for next season, Anderson does not fit into Ottawa’s plans. Anderson, who came to Ottawa in 2011 from the Colorado Avalanche, could use a playoff appearance to springboard him to another contract.
With a number of goaltenders available at the deadline and most of the contenders set at the starting position, Anderson might have to be content to slip into a backup role.
When Anderson stopped 34 of 36 shots in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs last Saturday, it served as a decent audition for a future trade.
The Leafs themselves have some uncertainties in goal, with starter Frederik Andersen dealing with a neck injury (status unknown) and backup Michael Hutchinson unconvincing as a fill-in.
After Wednesday’s 5-3 loss to the New York Rangers, the Leafs made a move to shore up their goaltending, acquiring Jack Campbell from the Los Angeles Kings.
The Senators will be open to offers for Anderson, who has excellent career playoff numbers: 23-22-0 record in 46 starts, 2.35 GAA and .929 save percentage.
Hogberg targets shootouts
Marcus Hogberg, 25, is quietly putting together a nice season for the Senators in his first serious stretch of NHL action. He’s been a solid backup, when injuries forced Nilsson or Anderson out of the lineup, and at times has been used by head coach D.J. Smith as his goalie of choice. Overall, Hogberg has started 12 games and has a 2.90 GAA and .912 save percentage. While his record is just 2-3-7, Hogberg has kept his team in games, which is why he plays so many overtimes (eight of his past 11 starts). If only his team would help him by scoring in the shootout once in a while. Hogberg is 0-4 in shootouts and the Senators are 0-5.
“I’m going to watch some videos of my shootouts and see what I can do better,” Hogberg said.
Gustavsson named AHL goalie of the month
Filip Gustavsson might have had a slow start to the season in Belleville, but his recent progress was rewarded in AHL goalie of the month honours for January.
Gustavsson was 4-0-1 for the month with a filthy 1.78 GAA and .942 save percentage. He has improved his overall numbers to 12-5-2 with a 3.24 GAA and .891 save percentage. Gustavsson and Joey Daccord have given the powerhouse B-Sens an outstanding one-two punch in goal.
Another Senators goalie prospect is making news.
Kevin Mandolese, 19, of the Cape Breton Eagles was the QMJHL’s goalie of the month for December and backed that up with “honourable mention” league honours for January. Mandolese, a sixth-round draft pick of the Senators in 2018, posted a 7-1-0 record last month with a 2.22 GAA, .930 save percentage and one shutout.