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Senators give Anderson four-year extension

by Dave Lozo
Craig Anderson wasn't sure what to expect when he arrived in Ottawa on Feb. 18.

The 29-year-old goaltender was on his way to practice that morning with the Colorado Avalanche when he received the news he had been dealt to the Senators, in exchange for goaltender Brian Elliot. So Anderson scrambled to the airport and arrived at Scotiabank Place not long after that night's game against the Boston Bruins had started.

Better late than never -- a fitting metaphor for the late-bloomer's NHL career.

"I showed up halfway through the first and they put my face on the Jumbotron," Anderson told reporters Monday after signing a four-year contract extension with the Senators, for a reported $12.75 million. "The ovation I got put a smile on my face. I knew right from the get-go I'd be happy here."

The four years represent security that the career backup goaltender hasn't seen much of since breaking into the League with the Chicago Blackhawks during the 2002-03 season. In his first seven NHL seasons, Anderson never played more than 31 games, a career-high he reached during his final season with the Florida Panthers in 2008-09.

That was enough for the Avs to sign Anderson to a two-year contract that summer. It was a gamble, but it paid off with Anderson posting 38 wins, a 2.64 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in a career-high 71 games in 2009-10. However, he was just 13-15-3 with a 3.28 GAA and .897 save percentage when he was traded to Ottawa.

The change of scenery seems to have been what the Park Ridge, Ill., native needed. In 11 games with the Senators, Anderson is 6-4-0 with a 2.11 GAA and .938 save percentage.

"It's just been a great spot here to come and take the opportunity to show what I can do," Anderson said. "The fans have been very welcoming and really have made it very easy to make my decision to want to play here.

"It's good to finally have that solidification where I can just go out there and play and worry about performing on the ice. It's great to get something long-term done. For me, you just want to set some roots down and really grow with the guys. I think when you get some shorter-term contracts it's tough to grow with the group."

"I think it's great for the organization," Senators coach Cory Clouston said. "Craig has shown he can log a lot of games. I thought he was outstanding in the playoffs last year for Colorado in a couple games. He's brought a stability to the team. He's brought a sense of leadership, a presence to the team. When he's in the net, players feel confident and calm. He communicates well with the guys. I think it's a real positive for the organization."

"It's just been a great spot here to come and take the opportunity to show what I can do. The fans have been very welcoming and really have made it very easy to make my decision to want to play here." -- Craig Anderson

Anderson said he wasn't shocked that he and the Senators GM Bryan Murray were able to work out a long-term deal so quickly after his arrival.

"I'm not surprised. My first impression of the organization and the city and Bryan Murray has been an unbelievable impression," Anderson said. "From the moment I got here, the people in the organization have really taken the time to go out of their way to make me feel like I'm at home and have done everything they possibly can to make my time here as easy possible."

Anderson would have become an unrestricted free agent this summer. When asked if he considered the possibility of getting more money on the open market, Anderson said being comfortable with an organization was more important than earning a few extra dollars.

"For me, it's not about the money," Anderson said. "It's about having a good fit and finding a place where I'm going to be happy, where players are treated with respect and the organization communicates with their players. It just a good feeling that makes you smile and makes you want to come to the rink. You can't put a price tag on that."

"Goaltending is and will be one of the important building blocks consistent with our plan to improve the team moving forward," Murray said. "Craig has provided a level of confidence to this team and this organization that was lacking early in the season, and we feel he is the type of person and player that will be a big part of our organization's future success."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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