Andrew Hammond (Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images)
Andrew Hammond is an unrestricted free agent on July 1, but the Ottawa Senators aren't going to let him walk without at least talking contract. After his incredible play during the final two months of the season, the goaltender nicknamed the "Hamburglar" is going to make the decision to lock him up or let him walk a tough one in Ottawa.
If Andrew "Hamburglar" Hammond didn't make things interesting enough in the Ottawa Senators crease during the home stretch of the regular season, the 27-year-old is certainly making the goaltending battle one to pay attention to as the off-season grows ever closer.
According to the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch, Hammond and the Senators have commenced contract discussions for the unrestricted free agent netminder. And with Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner already with contracts that run until 2017-18 and 2016-17 respectively, something might have to give in Canada's capital.
"I have been in touch with Ottawa, however nothing is imminent," Hammond's agent Dan Plante told Garrioch in a text message. "Andrew is very hopeful to get something worked out to remain with the club."
The trouble for Ottawa in this situation is that, yes, Hammond was the savior of the Senators' season and his incredible run was the reason the team made the playoffs. His 20-1-2 record, with three shutouts, a 1.79 goals-against average and .941 save percentage, was outstanding. However, on the other hand, it also has to go into consideration that before being called up to the NHL, Hammond had a record of 7-13-2 in the AHL with a 3.51 GAA and .898 SP. Granted, the Binghamton Senators weren't a good team this season, but Hammond was also the goaltender who had two career lowlights -- allowing a goal from center ice and posting a 300.00 GAA in one game -- before the season was halfway through.
With Lehner and Anderson arguably ahead of Hammond on the depth chart, it puts the Senators at a big time risk. Potentially, Hammond could revert to his AHL-level play from last season if he gets the chance in goal next season and fans would deride the decision to re-sign him. There's also the chance he goes elsewhere and posts stellar numbers once again.
Over their careers, both Lehner and Anderson also have a larger body of work in the NHL to draw from.
Lehner, 23, has 86 NHL contests under his belt, with a 30-36-13 record, two shutouts, a 2.88 GAA and .914 SP. In the AHL, Lehner went 43-40-5 with eight shutouts, a 2.73 GAA and .918 SP in 95 outings. He also backstopped the Binghamton Senators to a Calder Cup in 2010-11.
And then there's Anderson, 33, who has been a starter in the NHL for the past six seasons, but has been as injury prone as goaltenders come. When he's playing well, he plays extremely well. When he's not, he can be less than mediocre.
Anderson's 2010-11 campaign, for example, was one in which he went 13-15-3 with a 3.28 GAA and .897 SP in 33 games with Colorado before being dealt to the Senators. After arriving in Ottawa, Anderson posted an 11-5-1 record with 2.05 GAA and .939 SP.
If locking up Hammond can come cheap enough that it doesn't force the Senators to have to sell off either Lehner or Anderson, it would be the right move. Lehner is young enough that he still has room to grow and improve as an NHL goaltender, where Anderson can play well enough for stretches of time to be more than effective as a starting goaltender. Hammond can fit somewhere in between, filling in if -- or when -- Lehner or Anderson go down with injury.