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The Ottawa Senators have returned to a stable goaltending situation, deciding to go with Craig Anderson and Mike Condon as their netminders in the immediate future. With this in mind, this meant letting go of Andrew Hammond, who has been placed on waivers today. It’s a pretty surprising turn of events, but is it one that the Leafs should take advantage of?
Hammond made his first waves in the NHL as an unlikely hero for the Senators in 2014/15. Called up to the big club from Binghamton due to injury, the first-year pro went from posting lacklustre AHL numbers (0.898 over 25GP) to dominating the NHL, winning 20 of his 23 starts, posting a 0.941 save percentage, and forcing Ottawa into the playoffs despite prior feelings that the season was a lost cause.
Many believed that this run wouldn’t last forever and in a lot of ways they were correct. Anderson regained the starter’s job last season, though Hammond was still a very capable backup, providing an approximately league average 0.914 save percentage in 24 games, though the Senators’ losing record with him in goal kept him from getting much of a chance to run with his performances.
This year, a pair of poor showings and Condon’s hot start have left him out of the loop.
With that said, there’s still hope for him yet. While he wasn’t the same goalie as he was during his cinderella run, Hammond led the NHL in even-strength Save Percentage last season with a 0.941, though it was counter balanced by his 0.800 while on the penalty kill. Given that Anderson was also below the league average while a man short, that might indicate that the system played in front of them to kill off man-disadvantages wasn’t of much help.
Assuming that you believe that Hammond is good, the question still remains whether he’d fit into Toronto’s specific situation. There is a lot of gossip that Mike Babcock isn’t a huge fan of smaller goaltenders, and that he doesn’t feel that they fit into how he deploys his skaters. Jhonas Enroth certainly does himself no physical favours at 5’10, 170, and the fact that he’s a 0.866 through four starts hasn’t helped his case very much. The idea that Toronto might want to move on from him isn’t an absurd one at all, with all circumstances considered.
But here might already be a plan B waiting in the wings. Kari Ramo has been practicing with the team for a while now, and has an even bigger build than Hammond: 6’2, 205 rather than 6’1, 195. While Ramo’s performances in prior years haven’t been as good, he’s a pretty consistent 0.910 goaltender and that’s usually fine for a backup.
Cost also comes into play here. Enroth comes in at $750,000 and can be waived without holding onto additional hit, Ramo would likely sign for similar if not less, but Hammond still has two years left at $1.35 million per. If he is the goalie that the even strength numbers and the cinderella run hint at, that could be a bargain; but Toronto is already tight to the cap and if he ends up being below-replacement, Toronto would eat $400,000 by sending him to the AHL.
Ultimately, I think this is a risk that I would take. The 28-year-old has proven to be at least an average goaltender at the NHL level over the years with potential to be something more, and if Enroth’s days are numbered anyway, you may as well take the chance of plucking a good, free asset from a division rival. As long as Ramo has a locker room stall, though, I’m not sure if I see the Leafs actually doing it.