The Ottawa Senators look to be heading towards a rebuild, but the team’s goaltender position already looks to have a positive future ahead thanks largely to a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins, which saw Filip Gustavsson join the team.
The Senators’ Current Goaltending Situation
Ottawa has a fairly average situation between the pipes, at best, with veteran goalie Craig Anderson entering his eighth full season with the team.
Heading into last season, hopes were high with Anderson in net, with the 6-foot-2 Illinois native earning the Bill Masterton Trophy in 2016-17 while also leading the Senators to the Eastern Conference Finals. Since then, however, things have looked rather shaky, and the future of the position needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.
Anderson’s numbers dropped significantly, with a 3.32 goals-against average (GAA) and a save percentage (SV%) of .898—down from 2.28 and .926 respectively. And, with Anderson turning 37 this past May, the end of his playing days might be here sooner rather than later.
The biggest concern for the Senators is his cost, with the long-time starter holding a cap hit of $4.75 million a season until 2020. Add to that the $2.4 million they pay backup Mike Condon for the same length of time, and the financial situation looks pretty similar to the performances seen between the pipes.
The organisation is going through a difficult time with owner Eugene Melnyk, and the potential trade of captain and star player Erik Karlsson suggesting the team is now looking to rebuild rather than re-tool. But with a potential rebuild in sight, the future of the goaltending situation looks to be in fairly safe hands.
Filip Gustavsson: A Bright Spark
Twenty-year-old Swedish goaltender Filip Gustavsson has not been a member of the Senators organisation for very long, arriving from the Penguins in a trade just a few days prior to deadline day back in February. He was included in the package that saw the Senators part ways with Derick Brassard, who was having a strong sophomore season with the team.
In Gustavsson, however, the Sens have a guy that looks to have a real shot at becoming the team’s starter in the very near future, with the young goalie already accomplishing a lot so far in his career.
Gustavsson was always a high-potential player when he was selected 55th overall by the Penguins back in 2016, ranked as the top European goaltender available in that draft. In his draft year, the Skellefteå native won a silver medal with his country at the Under-18s World Junior Championships, a tournament in which he was also named the Best Goaltender.
Following the draft, Gustavsson has continued to develop his game primarily in Sweden—playing in 37 Swedish Hockey League regular season games over the past two seasons behind established starter Joel Lassinantti. His statistics have also improved greatly, going from a 2.70 GAA and .912 SV%in the 2016-17 season to 2.07 GAA and .918. He also made seven regular-season appearances for the Senators’ AHL affiliates in Belleville but did not have as much success with the team, who was having a very poor season.
His performances in his home country earned him significant recognition on the international stage, leading him to earn a silver medal at last season’s World Junior Championship in Buffalo. He was named Best Goaltender and had the best GAA (1.81) in the tournament and was named to the tournament’s All-Star team as a result of his strong performances.
Due to his successes at the World Juniors, and for Luleå HF in the SHL, Gustavsson was named as the third goalie for Team Sweden’s gold medal-winning World Championships roster. Sat behind Anders Nilsson and Magnus Hellberg, Gustavsson did not see the ice in Copenhagen, but the fact that he was chosen for the team at such a young age speaks volumes of his potential.
The Senators Future
The biggest issue the Senators have regarding their goaltending is monetary, with nearly $7 million tied up in two players. Gustavsson’s contract is perfect for the organisation thanks to the fact that he is still on his entry-level deal, which slid – meaning that the team still has him signed for three seasons, rather than two, costing them just $761,666 a season.
His young age and lack of experience on North American ice mean that he should spend at least another season or two in Belleville, adjusting to the different style of play seen across the two continents. His low cap hit means that the organisation can spend its time developing him without high expectations early on. For Anderson, however, his age and high cap hit means he could be in line for a trade at some point over the next season or two, with the team needing to work towards moving on from their long-time number one.
While it will not be an immediate changing of the guard, Gustavsson has shown plenty to be excited about and his low cost will mean that the team will not need to push him too quickly and can take the right steps to rebuild their roster into a regular playoff contender.