For the first 20 years of the Ottawa Senators’ existence, it is a “problem” fans would have killed to have. Three NHL quality goaltenders all fighting for playing time in the NHL at once.
The Senators will have all three with them when the season opens in Winnipeg on Saturday afternoon, with the starter yet to be determined. With the way Robin Lehner and Ben Bishop have been playing in Binghamton, combined with the inactivity of Craig Anderson, Paul MacLean has a difficult decision to make.
However, as tough as that decision is, it is nothing compared to what faces GM Bryan Murray as this year’s trade deadline approaches. The three headed monster really can’t go on past this season, and in fairness to the three players involved, it shouldn’t.
Anderson is the incumbent starter but hasn’t seen game action since Game 7 against the Rangers in April. Bishop was slated to be the backup with Lehner ticketed for Binghamton due to the 2 way contract. Lehner’s play has forced the Senators to re-examine that thought and keep all three, at least for the moment. When Anderson rounds into shape, he is expected to take the reins, but that might not be right away.
Obviously, Lehner is viewed as the future of the franchise between the pipes, and Anderson is holding the fort until the Swede has achieved the maturity and experience to assume the role. Whether that is this year or next remains to be seen, but all things point to sooner rather than later.
The Senators can’t carry three goalies all season, it’s not fair to the masked men, or the Binghamton Senators Who are waiting for the return of someone in the near future. The options for the Senators are many.
The Senators could explore trade options for Anderson or Bishop. Lehner would appear to be the option going forward and as such should be in the NHL in at least a backup role, with an increasing workload. If Murray is confident Lehner is ready, trading Anderson might be the best option, so as not to have a $3M backup. Bishop is capable of backing up and taking over should Lehner slump.
Bishop’s has the contract and the age to probably bring in more return than Anderson at this point. If Murray is content to have an expensive backup, whenever the transition to Lehner happens, then that might be the direction to take.
Finding a team who needs a starter and is willing to take on Anderson’s salary could take time, since I assume Murray would not want to deal him to Toronto. That would be a deal that happens closer to the deadline than now.
So inevitably, is would seem to me that Lehner and Anderson will be the tandem now, with the potential for Bishop to get the call up and flip with Lehner in order to get Lehner some AHL games, assuming Anderson gets the nod as number 1.