A look at the new contract for Ducks goalie Viktor Fasth.
As most of you know by now, the Anaheim Ducks signed goaltender Viktor Fasth to a two-year, $5.8-million contract extension yesterday. Opinions are mixed with regard to giving this much money to a player who has a grand total of nine NHL games under his belt. But even more interesting is the status of Jonas Hiller, the apparent backup in Anaheim for the foreseeable future.
Hiller is a proven starting goaltender at the NHL level with four consecutive seasons of 23 or more victories and a career .917 save percentage. Unfortunately, his $4.5 million cap hit for this year and next will likely spell the end of his stay with the Ducks.
There is precedence for allowing the backup goaltender to supplant the starter. Back in 2010 Hiller was given the starting gig in his third NHL season after sharing duties with former Conn Smythe winner Jean-Sebastien Giguere. At the time Hiller was the cheaper option finishing his rookie contract while Giguere had a more bloated $6 million per year deal. The incumbent was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs and Hiller received a raise (sound familiar?).
Even though the combined cap hit of the two goaltenders - $7.4 million – is not a bad figure at all, the Ducks are not a team that spends up to the NHL’s cap ceiling. Rather, they stick to an internal budget and have to be more careful than other teams. With Fasth signed the team has an opportunity to move forward with fewer dollars committed to their goaltending if they decide to trade Hiller. When observing their upcoming free agents a trade may become a necessity.
The top priority is obviously Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, who are both set to become unrestricted free agents in July. Both will command raises on their matching contracts that cost $5.325 million towards the salary cap. With the team currently sitting at second overall in the NHL with 25 points the duo may be convinced to stay in town long-term. This, along with Cam Fowler’s new contract that costs $4 million per year kicking in this summer will raise the team’s payroll significantly.
Other notable unrestricted free agents include Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu and Toni Lydman. It is not known which of them will return to the team next year but if any of them leave or retire the Ducks still have to find a suitable replacement which is never cheap. Even if they do save some money in the end, it will not be enough to offset the payroll increases which puts the focus on Hiller if he is not in the team’s future plans.
With all of that said, the team is not forced to act immediately. Fasth’s new contract begins this summer so for now his cap hit remains just $1 million. However, they are in a good position to listen to offers. There are teams that will prefer the flexibility that comes with Hiller’s shorter contract over Roberto Luongo’s lifetime pact. If he is not dealt this season there will be plenty of opportunity to work out a deal during the offseason.
The most notable Luongo destinations, Toronto and Florida, may be more interested in Hiller’s services. For Toronto, current coach Randy Carlyle was the bench boss for the Ducks during Hiller’s rise to starting goalie. Meanwhile, the Panthers may be more interested in a short-term solution as top prospect Jacob Markstrom continues to show signs of being ready for the next step in his development.
Beyond their NHL goaltenders the Ducks are in very good shape. Justin Goldman ranked the team’s goaltending depth chart #4 in the league with a grade of “A” earlier this month. Sitting behind Fasth and Hiller is Jeff Deslauriers, a veteran who could do a decent job as a short-term backup should a trade happen in the near future. After that there is a pair of youngsters, Fredrik Andersen and Igor Bobkov, who could make a mark in Anaheim in the next few years.
This appears to be history repeating itself in Anaheim. To their credit, they have assembled the necessary pieces to be able to trade Hiller when the time is right. Fasth is inexperienced at the NHL level but his massive success in Sweden makes him more of a safe bet than most newcomers. Down the road the team should be just fine when it becomes Fasth’s turn to be the odd man out.
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