With Antti Niemi a virtual lock to leave San Jose via free agency this summer, the Sharks need a new starting goaltender. Previous reports indicated Doug Wilson is looking to go younger in net, specifically targeting goalies who are around 25 years old. Craig Anderson, 34, is decidedly not around 25 years old but the Ottawa Senators netminder is very good at stopping the puck. According to Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun, the Sharks have called the Sens to discuss trading for the Illinois native.
It's believed the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues have both made calls to Murray on Anderson. Nobody is sure what the Sharks or Blues are offering in return but both have contracts with veteran forwards they'd like to move if they're going to take on Anderson's $4.2 million cap hit.
The source obviously needs to be considered here as Garrioch has been known to toss around the occasional outlandish rumor in the past but there's no reason to think this report isn't accurate; Garrioch certainly has sources within the Senators organization and it's a very open secret Ottawa is looking to trade one of their three NHL-caliber goaltenders after signing hamburger-throwing sensation Andrew Hammond to a three-year extension last month. One of Anderson or Robin Lehner will not be a Senator in the fall and, despite concerns surrounding Lehner's concussion history, it probably makes more sense for Ottawa to trade the 34-year-old signed at a $4.2 million cap hit for the next three years rather than the 23-year-old former top prospect.
Despite his age, Anderson represents a decent-sized upgrade on Niemi and is clearly one of the better goaltenders realistically available in trade or free agency this summer if not the outright best. Since the start of the 2011-12 season, Anderson ranks 13th among qualifying goalies in 5-on-5 SV% and 11th in overall SV%, stopping 91.8% of all shots he's faced over that span. He's perhaps best known to Sharks fans as the man who nearly single-handedly dragged a bad Avalanche team to a first-round upset of San Jose in 2010, compiling a 51-save shutout and another 43-save performance in that series before Colorado eventually lost in six games.
He's continued to be dynamite in the postseason when given the chance with Ottawa, posting a .933 SV% in 21 playoff starts with the Sens including a comical .972 in 4 games against Montreal this spring. If Anderson had started the first two games of that series over Hammond, it's likely the Senators would have advanced. When healthy, Anderson isn't among the truly elite goalies in the league like Carey Price, Henrik Lundqvist and Tuukka Rask but he's arguably in the group right below them which isn't bad at all for $4.2 million a year.
"When healthy" is the key to that sentence, though, as Anderson has started 40 or more games in a season just three times in his career. A lot of that was due to being stuck behind higher-profile goalies on the depth chart in Chicago and Florida but he's also missed 45 games due to a variety of injuries over the past three seasons. Already approaching his mid-thirties and signed through 2018, that's unlikely to get better over the course of Anderson's contract. That's the major risk the Sharks, or any other team trading for Anderson, would assume. Either Anderson avoids injury and is able to give San Jose around 60 starts with an above-average save percentage and be the stabilizing postseason presence Niemi (and, to a large extent, Evgeni Nabokov) never really was, or he gets hurt and the Sharks are forced to start Alex Stalock 40 or more times next season.
As for a return, Senators GM Bryan Murray is on record saying he's looking for a top-six forward in exchange for whichever goalie he ends up dealing. It's hard to see what the Sharks can offer in that respect. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau aren't going to waive their no-movement clauses and the organization isn't going to trade Logan Couture or Joe Pavelski; all four and Tomas Hertl would be overpayments for a 34-year-old goalie with injury concerns at any rate. Perhaps Tommy Wingels or Matt Nieto would need to be part of the deal depending on Murray's definition of a top-six forward and the other offers he receives.