As the Charlotte Checkers dropped the puck on their 2013-14 preseason, a reminder of what could have been tended the net at the opposite end of the rink. Frederik Andersen was a seventh round pick by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, though he played like anything but during his short stay in the organization.
Diamond in the Rough
After working his way through the Danish league with Herning Blue Fox and Frederikshavn White Hawks, Andersen arrived in the Swedish Elite League’s Frolunda HC. It was there that he really began to turn heads, surpassing Henrik Lundqvist’s club record of seven shutouts by one. He posted a SEL-best 1.67 GAA and .941 save percentage, while being nominated for the rookie of the year.
The following year, Andersen could have been in line to backup Carolina Hurricanes’ goaltender Cam Ward, perhaps even succeed him down the road. At worst, he looked destined to be a strong addition to the Checkers.
But general manager Jim Rutherford and Andersen’s agent couldn’t come to terms on a deal before the deadline, and he re-entered the draft in 2012.
“We tried to sign Frederik to a contract, and made him aware that we felt there was an opportunity here for him to earn one of our two NHL spots during training camp,” Rutherford said at the time.
No official explanation was ever given by Andersen’s camp. At the time, though, there looked to be a backlog of goaltenders in front of him. Mike Murphy had yet to announce his intent to leave for the KHL and John Muse was coming off a strong AHL debut, likely to earn a contract. Even Justin Peters hadn’t hit free agency yet. In Carolina, Ward and Brian Boucher had been entrenched as the duo.
But things change. Murphy fled for the KHL, Muse spent most of 2012-13 in the ECHL, and Boucher got hurt, eventually getting dealt to Philadelphia, leaving Peters to be brought back at the last minute.
Flashing forward even more, Ward and new backup Dan Ellis would go on to suffer injuries in 2013‘s shortened season, leaving Peters as the starter for a stretch. Andersen had the opportunity, he just didn’t know it.
A New Start
Andersen was drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in 2012’s third round and put together a very good North American debut for the Norfolk Admirals, becoming one of the top goaltenders in the AHL. Ironically, however, he found himself stuck in yet another logjam. For the past six seasons, Jonas Hiller has been a steadying presence in Anaheim’s net while Viktor Fasth came out of nowhere to post excellent numbers a year ago.
Both are 31 and with Hiller’s deal expiring next summer, room could be made for Andersen in Anaheim as soon as 2014. Ward, on the other hand, is signed for several more years but has had a revolving door of backups in his time as a starter. Either way, it appears, Andersen would have had a chance to make an impact.
If he goes on to be half the goaltender that Lundqvist was, it will have been an opportunity wasted. The ‘Canes have no apparent successor to Ward, and everything points to Andersen being more than capable of filling that role. He stopped 27 of 30 shots in the 4-2 loss and looked every bit the player the Hurricanes hoped he’d be when they selected him in 2010.
“We are very disappointed that he chose not to join our organization. Prior to him changing his agent, we had every indication that he was very interested in being a part of the Carolina Hurricanes.”
Andrew Luistro graduated from Appalachian State University. An avid sports fan, he began beat writing for the Sunbelt Hockey Journal, part of The Hockey Writers Network, with a focus on the Carolina Hurricanes. Andrew also actively follows the Boston Red Sox and Carolina Panthers, among other teams. Follow him on Twitter @ndrewL7