Before getting into today's piece, I recommend reading some longer writing on the Ottawa Senators and Erik Karlsson over at The Sporting News. The piece sort of investigates a theory that the team is too reliant on Erik Karlsson, particularly for offensive zone contributions.
Now, back to goalies. We've guessed on the forwards
already, so our netminders are all that's left.
Unlike the other posts, we know the ingredients -- it's going to be Craig Anderson, and it's going to be Robin Lehner. The question will be how Paul MacLean allocates ice-time.
Both goalies are coming off a bit of a rough year. The team gave up an ungodly number of shots, but neither Craig Anderson nor Robin Lehner will tell you they had a strong year. Anderson's .941 SV% from last year expectedly regressed, sliding to .911 in 53-games. The league average SV% for last year, mind you, was .914.
Robin Lehner had a glorious chance to steal ice-time away from the struggling Craig Anderson, but he too slipped. Lehner's been a very strong goaltender
in the early parts of his career, but last year's .913 doesn't hold up compared to his prior splits. Though Anderson and Lehner really played to the same level last year, it seemed sort of clear to me that MacLean viewed Lehner as the 1B or back-up -- consequently, Lehner only saw 36 games of action.
There's something of an expectation that the two could really see a genuine TOI split in 2014-2015 amongst fans, and I think that's probably true. The team's committed to Lehner long-term on his new contract, and there's really an air of uncertainty with what the team does with Craig Anderson beyond this season. Anderson's $3.19MM AAV deal expires in about nine months, and barring Anderson taking a bit of a pay cut (or the team inexplicably committing comparable or more dollar to a 34 year-old goaltender), it's very possible the team's movement to Robin Lehner as the true starter could be complete by year's end.
People have ruminated on a potential mid-season deal for Craig Anderson in the event that the team is (a) comfortable with Robin Lehner; (b) feels Craig Anderson won't extend. I see this as less likely, if only because the goalie market is over-saturated, and I can't imagine -- barring extreme circumstances -- there are going to be many teams in the market for a league-average goaltender (and rental) at the trade deadline.
Of course, injuries do happen. Perhaps Ottawa catches a playoff-bound team with a bad injury, and said team wants a guy with limited term to come in and just give his team a shot in the post-season. To that extent, an Anderson trade makes sense.
But, for now, it seems like the team's heading into the year with two starters, with ice-time going to be favorably allocated to the guy who really steps up. I think Anderson still holds the slightest of edges over Lehner in the coaching staff's eyes, but we could easily see that flip after a sequence of good or bad outcomes.