Bringing back Craig Anderson ensures the Buffalo Sabres retain invaluable veteran experience, but they will need more from the goalie position to challenge for the playoffs.
Despite dealing with a neck injury last season which had Craig Anderson contemplating retirement, he will now return for the 2022-23 campaign. As reported by NHL.com, the Buffalo Sabres have re-signed the goaltender to a one-year, $1.5 million deal.
In some respects, it makes total sense to bring Anderson back for another year. He will once again provide invaluable veteran leadership and mentoring for a young, developing roster.
The former Ottawa Senator went 17-2-2 in 31 starts during the 2021-22 campaign and at times showed he could still perform at a high level. The highlight of his season was winning his 300th NHL game, when the Sabres defeated the Vegas Golden Knights in Jack Eichel’s first return to Buffalo since being traded.
During a playing career covering three decades, Anderson has compiled a 308-264-71 record in 683 games, including 597 starts. In that time, he’s recorded a 2.85 GAA, .912 save percentage and 42 shutouts
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If the 41-year-old plays the 17 games required this coming season to reach 700 appearances, he will become just the 31st goalie in NHL history to achieve this impressive milestone. In the playoffs, he has a 24-23 record in 47 starts (48 games overall), with a 2.36 GAA, .929 save percentage and four shutouts.
Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams is delighted to have Anderson back. As per NHL.com, he said:
"“It says a lot about Craig and his family and also how he feels about the coaching staff, the players, the organization because, you know, I don’t know if this time last year if he thought maybe this could be one year. I think he had fun and he sees something special building. He actually even said to me, ‘In all my years of playing, I don’t know if I’ve enjoyed myself more than I did last year.’ So, yeah, we’re excited and we’ll just keep working on what’s next.”"
Despite all the positivity surrounding Anderson, even he will admit he’s not the player he used to be. Perhaps the biggest indicator of his declining skill level was a .897 save percentage which was his worst in 16 seasons, although in fairness to him, the play of those in front also contributed to this.
One thing that will have to be decided is who the Sabres play in tandem with Anderson. One line of thinking would be to give Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen the opportunity.
Luukkonen is a big, talented and athletic prospect with considerable upside. Last season he started nine NHL games, and while he only went 2-5-2, his 2.74 GAA and .917 save percentage was better than Anderson, Tokarski and Dell, who combined for 68 starts.
Part of the reason the 2017 second round draft pick didn’t play more for the Sabres, was due to a lower body injury. Regardless, there is a possibility he won’t be given the opportunity to partner Anderson, at least to begin the 2022-23 campaign.
The opinion comes courtesy of The Buffalo News‘ Lance Lysowski, who believes Luukkonen is not yet ready to handle the workload at the NHL level. Instead, Lysowski thinks the youngster will begin the coming season in Rochester, to further hone his skills.
As such, Lysowski writes that the Sabres will go after a proven NHL goalie, to work in tandem with Anderson. Adams admits this is a possibility and, as per CapFriendly.com, the money is definitely there with just over $34.05 million of cap space at the time of posting.
Who would you like the Buffalo Sabres to (realistically) make a move for, to strengthen the goaltender position? Or do you believe Luukkonen should be given the opportunity to share the load with Anderson? Let us know in the comments section below.