Andrew Hammond

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Flyers loan Matt Read to AHL, reminding us that NHL cuts can be cruel

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With two seasons of at least 22 goals, Matt Read seems like the sort of player who should be able to secure an NHL job.

Maybe he’ll be back with the Philadelphia Flyers again at some point in 2017-18, but he’s slated to begin the season in the AHL after the Flyers loaned Read to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Tuesday. This comes after Read cleared waivers.

The 31-year-old will still cost the Flyers quite a bit of money in cap space, even though he’s playing in the AHL.

It all feels like such a waste, doesn’t it?

Really, though, Read is just the latest in a slew of players who seem too good for the AHL but can’t quite land with a team in the NHL. In Read’s case, it’s almost certainly a matter of cost. But it’s staggering that, even with the number of teams growing to 31, some quality players can’t seem to find work.

(Even in a salary retention scenario, it might be tough to work out a taker for Read.)

This is also part of the reason why people get a little grumpy when the likes of Tanner Glass and Matt Hendricks continue to land one-way contracts. Just consider some of the quality players who either couldn’t get a contract at all or find themselves in the AHL:

  • Brandon Pirri, a player who managed a 22-goal campaign in just 49 games back in 2014-15, was released from his PTO. He couldn’t impress enough in his tryout with the Florida Panthers, the team most likely to believe in his abilities (since he achieved his best numbers with the Cats).
  • Analytics darling P.A. Parenteau couldn’t catch on with the (potentially dreadful) Detroit Red Wings.
  • Struggling former first-rounders such as Emerson Etem and Beau Bennett were placed on waivers. Andrew Hammond, Malcolm Subban, and other fairly noteworthy goalies struggle to find footholds.
  • Cory Conacher ranks as one of the classic examples of a “AAAA player.” He puts up great AHL numbers but, beyond a blip of NHL activity, can’t seem to stick at that level. One can’t help but wonder if the likes of Etem and Bennett may join him under that designation.
  • Even players who catch on sometimes struggle more than you’d think. It’s strange how down-to-the-wire the Jaromir Jagr signing ended up being, especially since the Calgary Flames signed him for cheap. Cody Franson may catch on with the Chicago Blackhawks, yet you’d think a solid depth defenseman would go through a smoother process.

Yup, the NHL can be cruel, especially to players who don’t generate reputations as “grit guys” and/or “leaders in the room.”

Read finding himself in the AHL comes down to a number of factors; to some extent, it’s a testament to the young talent Flyers GM Ron Hextall has amassed, with the likes of Nolan Patrick making the cut.

Still, there are teams that will put some paltry players on the ice in 2017-18, and fans may grumble when they consider the talent that’s either stuck in the AHL or without an easy path to the NHL altogether.

While Read wasn’t claimed, there were some notable claims made on Tuesday. Check out this post for further details on Subban and Patrik Nemeth.

Also:

Quick hits: Sens waive Hammond, Rangers send Andersson to Sweden

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NHL teams have until Tuesday to get their rosters down to 23 players (or perhaps less in specific, tight cap situations), so the waiver wire could be intriguing to watch until then.

Between that and sending prospects to the AHL, juniors, or even overseas, there are quite a few things going on. Let’s take care of some of those items in one convenient spot.

(Note: this isn’t necessarily comprehensive; if you want to cover every base, check out Rotoworld’s NHL page.)

  • First things first, waiver notes for Thursday. The two most prominent names are Matt Puempel of the New York Rangers and Andrew Hammond of the Ottawa Senators.

Hammond is an especially interesting case.

The 29-year-old memorably saved the Senators’ season in 2014-15, also earning McDonald’s for life. Since then, he’s largely been lost in the shuffle of Ottawa: seemingly too prominent for the AHL but not quite established enough to take starts from Craig Anderson (and eventually passed by Mike Condon).

Hammond’s numbers haven’t been the greatest since then, and his $1.35 million cap hit isn’t the cheapest for someone who might not be a difference-making backup. Still, it’s plausible that some team – maybe one with a lot of space and some questions – might want to take a look. In this specific case, the odds increase because at least that cap hit will expire after 2017-18.

  • The New York Rangers loaned their first-round pick Lias Andersson to Sweden, where he’ll play for Frolunda of the Swedish Hockey League. As the seventh pick of this past draft, Andersson is a guy to keep an eye on, possibly not too long from now.
  • There’s some belief that, while it isn’t official, the Dallas Stars are expected to send Julius Honka to the AHL, meaning that he’d lose out to the likes of Jamie Oleksiak.

Some believe that the Stars would be making the safe move as far as waivers go, rather than opting to put the best team on the ice.

Devils score early and often, opening up seven-goal lead vs. Senators

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Tough night for the Ottawa Senators and, specifically, goaltender Mike Condon on Monday.

Playing the New Jersey Devils in the Kraft Hockeyville showcase in Summerside, Prince Edward Island, Condon allowed seven goals on 17 shots before the midway point of the second period.

Andrew Hammond then entered into the game for Ottawa, with the Senators down 7-0.

Marcus Johansson started the scoring onslaught for New Jersey. Nico Hischier gave the Devils a three-goal lead before the eight-minute mark of the opening period, and John Quenneville scored twice in less than 30 seconds to put New Jersey up by seven in the second period.

Will Antti Raanta be the answer in net for the Coyotes?

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This post is a part of Coyotes day at PHT…

The Arizona Coyotes made some pretty drastic changes to their roster this offseason saying goodbye to some major veteran players (Shane Doan, Radim Vrbata, Mike Smith) and bringing in some fresh faces to replace them, including Derek Stepan, Niklas Hjalmarsson and goalie Antti Raanta.

Overall, the players coming in would seem to be — on paper anyway — upgrades over what they ended up letting go.

One of the more intriguing changes is going to be in net where Raanta is going to replace Smith, the Coyotes’ starting goalie for the past six years, and get his first opportunity to be a starting goalie in the NHL.

It is an opportunity he has earned over the past three years.

During that stretch Raanta has been one of the NHL’s top backups, playing behind Corey Crawford in Chicago and then Henrik Lundqvist in New York the past two years. There even came a point this past season where Raanta played so well (coinciding with one of the worst slumps of Lundqvist’s career) that he ended up getting the bulk of the playing time for nearly a month.

Over the past three years his save percentage has put him alongside some of the NHL’s elite goalies, but he has done that primarily as a backup where a goalie can get more favorable matchups and not have to deal with a starter’s workload.

How Raanta adjusts to being the No. 1 goalie will go a long way toward determining how good the Coyotes can be this season.

Shortly after he was acquired by the Coyotes I mentioned how a decent comparable for him and the Coyotes might be the player Cam Talbot has turned out to be for the Edmonton Oilers. Talbot was coming from a nearly identical situation (very good backup to Henrik Lundqvist in New York at a similar age) and has become an above average starter.

If the Coyotes can get that level of play from Raanta it would be a nice addition, and probably an upgrade over what they were going to get from Smith — not to mention at a better price.

The question is whether or not they can get that level of play.

In looking at goalies that have followed similar career paths in recent years the results have been somewhat mixed.

I went back over the past 15 years and looked at goalies that played between between 40 and 100 games through their age 27 season (an admittedly imperfect way of identifying “backups”) and how the most successful ones did when — and if — they became starters.

There were 45 goalies in the hockey-reference database that fit that criteria.

Twelve of them had a save percentage of .916 or better during that point in their career. The list includes Matt Murray, Cam Talbot, Anton Khudobin, Andrew Hammond, Dan Ellis, Philipp Grubauer, Scott Darling, Alex Stalock, Ben Scrivens, Eddie Lack, Vesa Toskala, and, of course, Raanta.

It is an interesting list.

Murray and Grubauer don’t really fit the mold of what we are looking for here because they are both young players that were top prospects. Murray has already taken a starting job and excelled with it, winning two Stanley Cups before his 23rd birthday.

Grubauer probably could be a starter if wasn’t playing behind one of the top-three goalies in the world.

Darling is entering into an identical situation as Raanta this season where he is getting a chance to go from successful backup to full-time starter.

But the rest of that group is exactly what we are looking for here, and the results are not exactly encouraging because other than Talbot none of them really went on to have much success as starters. Lack and Khudobin both continued Carolina’s goaltending struggles that led to them trying to find another top backup this offseason (Darling), while Ellis, Hammond, Stalock, Scrivens, and Toskala never really panned out.

The one thing that Raanta and the Coyotes have going in their favor is that he has a larger body of work to go by, having already already played in 94 games at the NHL level. A lot of the players on the aforementioned list had less than 50 games at a similar point.

We will find out if that extra playing will make a difference.

The Senators are going to need another big season from Craig Anderson

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This post is a part of Senators day at PHT…

During the Ottawa Senators’ stunning run to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals much of the attention was focussed on their “boring” style of play under coach Guy Boucher, and how they were able to play a tight defensive game to scratch and claw their way to victories.

And all of that was a big factor.

Boucher put in place a system that worked for the talent he had, and the results were there.

But it’s not like this was a particularly great defensive team that shut teams down. They ended up getting outscored (by only two goals, but still) during the regular season, and when you look at the number of shots and total shot attempts they allowed, or the fact they were near the bottom of the league on the penalty kill they were pretty much a middle of the pack team.

Having a top-five player in the world in Erik Karlsson certainly helped, but so did the performance of starting goaltender Craig Anderson.

Anderson’s season was a difficult one off the ice as he left the team on more than one occasion to be with his wife, Nichole, as she went through her battle with cancer.

On the ice when he was in the lineup he was perhaps the Senators’ most important player (not best … but most important) because there was a noticeable difference in the team’s ability to win with him in net versus when there was any other goalie. A lot of that is due to the way the Senators played and the number of shots — and shot attempts — they surrendered.

Anderson has been an underrated starter for quite some time and since arriving in Ottawa has been one of the more productive starters in the league. His .920 save percentage since joining the Senators is among the 10 best in the league during that time (active goalies with at least 100 games played) and he always performed well in the playoffs (.929 career save percentage).

When he was in the lineup during the 2016-17 season the Senators, including playoffs, were 36-19-4, which would have been a 104-point pace over 82 games.

With the trio of Mike Condon, Chris Dreidger and Andrew Hammond they managed only a 19-17-6 record … an 85-point pace over 82 games.

That change is not a coincidence when you look at Anderson’s performance with a .926 regular season save percentage that was third best in the league, as well a .922 mark in the playoffs.

Without that level of play from Anderson — especially in the postseason — there was no system in the world that was going to lift Ottawa to the level it ended up reaching. They were only 15th in the league in terms of shots on goal against, and when it came to 5-on-5 play they were one of the worst teams in terms of giving up total shot attempts.

Combine that with an offense that wasn’t particularly explosive and it was always going to be a team that needed to rely on strong goaltending. And Anderson gave them that.

Given that the Senators are bringing back almost the exact same roster this season with the same coach using the same system there is little reason to believe much is going to change with the Senators’ style of play. That means there is going to be a lot of pressure on Anderson to put together another strong performance like the one we saw this past year. Even if a league-average effort from Anderson on the same number of shots would have added another 14-18 goals against to the Senators’ total for the season, a number that would have pushed them from 10th in the league in goals against all the way down to 18th, and significantly worsened an already bad goal differential. With only four points between them and the Tampa Bay Lightning (a team that should be better this season due to better health) there is not much margin for error there.