Senators goaltender Craig Anderson spoke to the media today via conference call after the club announced that they had reached an agreement with Anderson to extend his contract by three years. Here's what he had to say about the news...
On being able to focus on the season after coming to an agreement:
Obviously we're all human and we all have lives and taking the contract part of the life out of the equation allows me to focus completely on my job of stopping the puck. There's no distractions whatsoever from that part of the game. That's really exciting for me and a good feeling knowing that I'm going to be a part of the Sens organization for the next few years.
On last season:
When you don't make the playoffs things didn't go the way you needed them to go but I felt that throughout the course of the year there's always going to be ups and downs. From a player's standpoint and from a team's standpoint you want to limit the amount of valleys that you have and maximize the peaks. I felt that I could have been better and as a group we all could have been better. When everyone does a little bit better job the whole team gets a lot better. That's kind of what our focus is going to be here going forward. If everyone can be just a little bit better including myself it'll go a long way in the team concept of winning hockey games.
On if the underdog status is motivating:
I think as a group inside the room we have to believe in ourselves regardless of what the outside sources pick us to be — good, bad, indifferent — it doesn't really matter when we're inside the room. We're playing for each other, we're playing for the crest, we're playing for our fans. We believe in what we're doing. As soon as you don't believe in what you're doing you're defeated. I think right from the get-go we're going to have a lot of eager, young players that are willing to lay their body on the line for the team and prove they can play, they can be here, they can contribute. That's going to go a long way. You can't really put an estimate on what that part of the game is going to bring to the table for us. Usually it ends up being a good thing having those enthusiastic young players — you don't know enough about them to make a true estimate of what they're going to do. I think that's one of the key factors of what we have going for us right now.
On growth through last year's adversity:
I like the character we have in our room. I think this is the closest group of guys that I've played with in my career and that goes a long way. When you're in the trenches with a guy that you like and hang out with and enjoy seeing his success that has another X factor to it. It's just one of those things where what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. We went through a lot of ups and downs last year and a lot of adversity. We had a lot of young guys that have grown a lot through that experience and I expect them to be that much better for it. Like I said, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger and you always have to keep moving forward. If we keep the eye on the prize looking forward and not looking behind us, I think we have a group of guys that have a lot of character that can continue to grow.
On his relationship with Robin Lehner:
Robin and I have gotten along really, really well the last few years. I'm looking forward to working with him and continuing to help him improve. By him being a better goalie it's going to help me become a better goalie and we're going to become a better team because of it. Robin's a young guy with a lot of skill, a lot of heart. I know he's helped out a lot of guys so I know he's got a bit heart away from the rink as well. Like I said, over the last couple of years I've seen him turn into a real pro and I think it's going to be good for the team when we're both playing well to push each other to continue to give the team two good options. That's all you can ask for. If I do my job it'll make him do his job better and when he does his job it'll make me do my job better.
On if he expects Robin to push him harder this year:
I expect him to get better and better ever year. He's a great goaltender, he's still young and he's always going to continue to improve right now. I've seen his work habits go through the roof over the last couple of years which is a good sign for the team and it's only going to instill more confidence. If the team has confidence in both their goaltenders it's just going to help the team win at the end of the day.
On committing to the franchise despite the departures of big name players:
Obviously everyone has their own agenda on what their career path should be. I felt the Senators gave me an opportunity three years ago when they traded for me with that contract. I felt that the fans here, the organization, everything about the city of Ottawa has been outstanding for me. It was one of those things where I love it there and I wanted to continue and stay there and continue to call that place my home. It's a great place to play, a great bunch of guys, the organization, the staff right from top to bottom they have treated me with the utmost respect and I felt like I wanted to stay and be a part of the organization as long as I can.
On getting the deal done before camp:
As far as the contract talks I stayed out of it for the most part, I let the powers that be handle all of that. From a personal standpoint having the security of getting it all wrapped up and off the plate and off the mind is definitely a relief. Knowing that I can just go and play hockey and do my job and not have to worry about if I'm doing enough to earn myself this or that, it takes all those doubts out of play. I can focus my energy 100 per cent. To play this game at any position you need to focus your energy 100 per cent on the task at-hand and you can't have any distractions. Having it all done and wrapped up will have a huge impact moving forward.
On goaltenders pushing one another:
The idea of a guy who has a bonafide number one job, there's nobody to push him, you're looking at a situation where a guy could fall into the comfortable zone. Okay, I'm here at work and doing my thing. There's really no threat for him to really push himself other than self-motivation and his teammates and the pursuit of winning. You still have those same factors like the pursuit of winning a Stanley Cup, playing for your teammates but now when you add in a factor of — it's such a unique position. If you're a forward you play anywhere from six minutes to 16 minutes depending on how well you play that night. From a goalie's standpoint if you don't perform you're sitting on the bench watching every night for 60 minutes. There's definitely a factor to push you a little bit harder, to do a couple extra reps at practice or to make that extra effort with the guys. It's one of those things where normally you'd do those things but now you have a constant reminder. It's like going to the gym. Yeah, you can go and work out and do some exercises but when you have somebody, a trainer, working with you, you're going to give that extra 10 tenths. You're not going to go and say that well, was good enough today. That's kind of the point we're at. I think with most positions in the National Hockey League there's always going to be somebody chomping at your heels. If you don't do that extra 10 tenths every day you have a chance to lose your ice time.
Senators assistant GM Pierre Dorion gave the organization's take on the extension on Monday as well. Here's what he had to say...
On the timing of the deal and the term:
For us it was a situation that we felt Craig had played some great hockey for us in the past three years and we felt that signing Craig to that type of term is what we wanted. He plays with us until he's in his mid-30s and we feel that goalies through the years, even right now, are still performing at that age. We just felt that earlier in the summer we wanted to get Robin done first and with Craig going on the last year being a pending UFA, we just felt that signing Craig, we probably have one of the best tandems in the League. That's just the route we decided to take.
On the balance between Lehner and Anderson:
I think it's a great thing for the Ottawa Senators having two guys that can be number ones, two guys that can go in the net at any time and win games. I think they work well with each other, they're going to push each other and I think it's only a good thing for our team and our fans.
On concerns over how the goalies would react to the two contracts:
No, for us it was not a concern. For us it was a very simple thought process — we felt as a management group and through Bryan Murray that having two guys that can win games for us was something that's important. Both guys push each other. I just talked to Bryan a few minutes ago before I came on this call and I said they're probably going to ask me who's going to play and he said, "just tell them whoever wins games."
On the lack of no-trade clauses for the goaltenders:
Both of our goalies don't have a no-trade clause. Every negotiation is different. Compared to Clarke MacArthur or Mark Borowiecki or Eric Gryba, guys who we've bought UFA years on, we just did the same with Craig. We felt as a management group here that this was important to have no type of clause in the contract. In saying that, Robin doesn't have any type of clause in his contract. For us it was something in the negotiation that we felt was important to have.
On if Robin knew about the plans to extend Craig:
I'm not sure he was aware but we've been very up front with our players and their respective agents. When we signed Robin his agents were aware we were working on an extension with Craig and when we were talking with Craig's agents they were aware we were trying to get a deal done with Robin. I think both parties knew. I think it was leaked I was in Chicago last week talking with Craig's agent and Justin came to Ottawa this past weekend and that's how we got the deal done.
On negotiations with Ryan and Methot:
As far as negotiations with Ryan, as recently as today both Bryan and myself spoke with Mark Guy and Don Meehan. Bryan alluded to this on the call with his comments on Clarke MacArthur but we don't foresee anything happening until Bobby comes to town but negotiations have been very productive. As far as Marc Methot, as recently as the end of last week I had conversations with Larry going through Bryan and we're still talking. These are pending unrestricted free agents so it's not a case where you have to go to arbitration next week and there's a deadline. We're still working hard on both and we feel confident that at some point in time we can get deals done for both.
On trying to get deals done before camp:
Obviously we'd like to have all our contracts done on July 1 at 6:00 p.m. so we can all have a good summer but these things take time. Eugene [Melnyk] has allowed us to spend quite a bit of money here to ensure that we have a very competitive team. We signed a guy like Gryba, we bought a year of UFA. We signed Borowiecki, we bought a year of UFA. We signed Clarke MacArthur, we bought five years of UFA. We signed Craig Anderson, we bought another three years of UFA. The timing sometimes just works if a player contacts his agent and tells him to start negotiating with us or we'd like to have a deal. Sometimes players want to play their seasons out. I think it it's a case by case situation. Obviously we'd like to have our contracts done sooner rather than later but sometimes it's also good for our side to have things play out.
On the benefit to doing deals a year ahead of time:
There's less distractions, less stories for you guys [media] to talk about for which I apologize. I think in a way it shows our fans we're trying to do things as well and as efficiently as possible. The biggest thing is no distractions. Guys know they're going to be around here for a number of years. I think it's a sign from our ownership that we're making a long-term commitment to win as long as we can. Those are things that come into play for us.