The first day of free agency was a rather simple one for Craig Anderson.
The team he wanted to sign with was one of the first to call. And just like that, Craig was a member of the Colorado Avalanche.
“I spoke to (general manager Greg Sherman) as soon as free agency started, after he spoke with my agent,” said Anderson. “We had a great telephone conversation and after talking to him I knew 100 percent that this is where I wanted to be. Colorado was at the top of my list as an organization I wanted to join. It’s a great opportunity, a great city. I was just fortunate enough that they were interested in me and wanted to get something done as soon as possible.”
Anderson, who split the goaltending duties with Tomas Vokoun in Florida last season, will have a chance to be the starting netminder for the Avalanche in 2009-10. Despite playing in just 31 games last year, the 28-year old ranked third among NHL goalies with a .924 save percentage. He finished 15-7-5 on a Panthers team which tied Montreal for the final playoff spot but missed the postseason due to a tiebreaker.
It’s that kind of performance that had quite a few teams interested in the Park Ridge, Illinois native when July 1st rolled around.
“From looking around the league, I had a few spots to choose from,” he said. “But from the opportunity and the way I’ve heard about the organization there in Colorado, how first-class they are, I knew it was somewhere I wanted to be and wanted to play for.”
Peter Budaj started 55 of Colorado’s 82 games last year and has agreed to terms with Colorado for next season. Thus, Anderson knows he still has to earn the job. All he wanted was a chance to compete for No. 1.
“Every amount of playing time is deserved in this game,” he said. “Nothing is given. The goaltending situation (in Colorado) is definitely a positive one for myself and to give myself a fighting chance to come in and fight to play 50-60 games. That was kind of the opportunity I was looking for. And make sure I do everything I possibly can to earn those games.”
Selected 73rd overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2001 Entry Draft, Anderson made his NHL debut with the Blackhawks in 2002-03 and has gone on to appear in 109 career games with Chicago and Florida. The 6-foot-2 netminder owns a 36-43-13 record with a .911 Sv% and 2.87 GAA.
It hasn’t been the quickest ride but Anderson says his maturity has helped him grow as a person and hockey player. Now, he is looking to build on his success from last year and seize the No. 1 goaltending spot in Colorado.
“That has always been my ultimate goal in the NHL, to become a starter. My job is to prepare myself for every game like it’s going to be my last.”
And most importantly, show the Avalanche that it made the right decision in signing him in the early hours of free agency.
“It’s kind of a dream come true when you think about it,” said Anderson of signing his two-year contract with Colorado. “It’s an opportunity to play in a great city and a great organization and I don’t think it could be a better matchup.”