Goaltender Viktor Fasth was one of the 2013 campaign’s most pleasant surprises. He made his NHL debut at the age of 30 and got things off with a bang by winning his first eight NHL starts.
Although he did have some rough outings along the way, he didn’t slow down significantly and ended up with a 15-6-2 record, 2.18 GAA, and .921 save percentage. Meanwhile, Jonas Hiller bounced back from a poor start, but after playing in 73 contests in 2011-12, he’s not the clear starter going into 2013-14.
Anaheim might even trade Hiller and put their faith entirely in Fasth, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see them start the season with both goaltenders. After all, Fasth only has 25 games worth of NHL experience and as good as they have been, that’s an awfully small sample size to put your trust in.
In the short-term, it might make more sense for them to let Hiller and Fasth battle for playing time, but by the end of the 2013-14 campaign, they will be forced to make a decision.
Hiller’s entering the final season of his contract and if it’s a good one, he might seek a raise from his current $4.5 million annual salary. If they finish the season feeling confident with Fasth, then they might let Hiller walk if they haven’t already dealt him. If Fasth has a rough campaign though, the Ducks will be in a bit of a challenging situation.
They already have close to $42 million committed to 13 players in 2014-15, according to Cap Geek, so giving Hiller a raise might be painful. It will help though that Fasth’s contract with its $2.9 million cap hit expires in the summer of 2015, so if they opt to re-sign Hiller, then there will only be one season of overlap before their netminding costs get more reasonable.
In either scenario, you can expect Fasth or Hiller to be gone within the next two seasons. If one of them falters, then it wouldn’t make much sense to keep that one when Anaheim has some promising young goaltenders in the pipeline in John Gibson and Igor Bobkov. Even if both of them excel, it won’t be cost effective to retain both of their services for long given their contract situations.
So this is a key season for both Fasth and Hiller. Not only are they battling for the starting job, but they’re also fighting for their next gig, be it with the Ducks or another team.