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Senators lose to the Sabres, Anderson wins his final NHL game

April 14, 2023, 10:16 PM ET [118 Comments]
Sens Writer
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Guest Writer: Ken Hawkins (aka khawk)

If there’s one loss that the Senators’ fan base will tolerate above all others this year, it’s the one that allowed Craig Anderson to win his final NHL game. In a rare moment of serendipity within the NHL schedule, the Senators were able to play their final game of the season against the team’s all-time leader in goaltender wins, games, and saves. And while the Senators took a 3-2 lead into the 3rd period, the Sabres rallied to tie the game and then win the game in OT. It was legitimately heart-warming to see the BUF bench clear out to go and celebrate with Anderson, and then see the OTT bench wait to do the same afterwards. It was a well-deserved outpouring of respect for a player who quietly put together a very impressive career where he achieved a top-5 all-time ranking among American-born goaltenders in games, wins, and shutouts.

As for his tenure in Ottawa, It’s sometimes easy to forget that Anderson played in Ottawa for 10 seasons and that his tenure didn’t begin until he was already 29 years old. Putting that in context, when Anderson first joined the team, they were coached by Cory Clouston and had a blueline that included names like Phillips, Kuba, and Gonchar. There are only 5 current Senators that actually played NHL games with Anderson, which include Tkachuk, Chabot, Batherson, Norris, and Brannstrom. However, Anderson was kind enough in his media comments to talk about how proud he was to have positively impacted those key young Senators players. The team’s recent struggle to find consistency between the pipes only makes his retirement more bittersweet, as he will long be remembered as the best goaltender in team history.

Question mark around the future of Alex DeBrincat

Bruce Garrioch recently reported that impending RFA Alex DeBrincat may have limited interest in signing a long-term extension with the Senators. This would seem to contradict recent comments from GM Pierre Dorion, who was quite clear that the team was prepared to make a $9M qualifying offer to DeBrincat and was seeking a longer-term deal. However, that may have been media posturing in order to not give the impression that the team was in a position of having to make a trade in the off-season, which might diminish his trade leverage. It’s hard to imagine that either side would prefer a 1yr qualifying offer scenario, so the comment from Dorion could amount to little more than announcing that the team would be retaining his RFA rights. But there may be a frustrating off-season ahead in terms of rhetoric coming from both sides.

DeBrincat has certainly had a polarizing season in terms of fan reaction. Despite his goal-scoring pedigree, it was pretty clear early on that he was adopting more of a play-making role on the team. Supporters will note that beyond putting up a 27G-39A season, the value of his play may also be reflected in the team’s top-10 PP% and 20G seasons achieved by Pinto & Batherson. However, his offensive play was also largely overshadowed by 35G+ seasons from Tkachuk, Stutzle & Giroux, and he was persistently maligned for his line’s combined -87 plus-minus rating. That said, there’s also no clear sense of how a healthy season from Josh Norris might have impacted his performance, either offensively or defensively.

Regardless, limited cap space will force hard decisions to be made, and there’s no question that a DeBrincat trade could help the team add much-needed depth at other positions of weakness. Chief among these concerns would be solidifying the goaltending, adding quality two-way forward support, or potentially bringing back some of the more valuable UFA-eligible players who played key roles in the resurgence of the team this season (e.g. Hamonic & Brassard). Given the reminder of how valuable Craig Anderson was to the team, it will be interesting to see the reaction of the fan base if there are off-season efforts to target a more prominent veteran G either by trade or free agency.

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