Sports Hockey

MAPLE LEAFS

Leafs acquire Andersen from Ducks, sign goalie to 5-year deal

By Lance Hornby, Toronto Sun

Anaheim Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen looks for the puck against the Nashville Predators in Game6 of the first round of the NHL playoffs at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on April 25, 2016. (Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports)

Anaheim Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen looks for the puck against the Nashville Predators in Game6 of the first round of the NHL playoffs at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on April 25, 2016. (Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports)

The 30th place Maple Leafs now have a No. 1 NHL goalie under contract for five years.

Though it’s unclear how high Frederik Andersen can lift a team that is currently suspect defensively and has not yet seen its paper projections of a better offence proven on ice, there was no sense waiting in the mind of general manager Lou Lamoriello.

With other NHL teams in on the Andersen bidding, Lamoriello sacrificed one of Toronto’s two first-round picks in Friday’s draft in Buffalo as well as the lower of two second rounders in 2017 to get Andersen from the Anaheim Ducks.

By suppertime Monday, Lamoriello had signed Andersen to a five-year deal worth $5-million US annually. The 6-foot-4 Andersen will have just turned 27 on opening night in October.

“The right timing ... you don’t know when that will come,” Lamoriello said of the ideal moment to land a solid goalie versus first getting blueline help or depth up front. “This opportunity came now. This will help the growth of our young players, having these two goalies (Andersen and Jonathan Bernier).

“Whenever you have this kind of goaltending it breeds confidence, from the defence to the forwards and the forwards to the defence.”

Lamoriello claimed the Leafs “are not pushing (the rebuilding) plan forward, not interrupting it”, but he and coach Mike Babcock did promote more than 20 players last season from the Marlies to set the table for 2016-17.

“When you get a goalie of this calibre and his success, acquiring him is the most important thing,” Lamoriello added.

“The price is secondary. He had one more year left before he became a UFA or went to arbitration. The five-year extension gives him mental comfort and support. The confidence and commitment are there. We’re excited about this.”

The Danish-born netminder set a high standard for himself during his early days in North America, a 2.19 goals-against average with the AHL Norfolk Admirals then an NHL all-rookie team season in 2013-14 with a record of 20-5-0 with Anaheim. The next year Andersen became the quickest NHLer to reach 26 wins and tied World War II-era star Bill Durnan as the fastest to 50.

What Lamoriello didn’t know about Andersen, he gleaned from NHL sources.

“First of all, I love his competitiveness,” Lamoriello said. “He gives us size (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) and, today, it’s a necessity.”

Last year, Andersen won 22 games, bringing his career record to 77-26-12. He was, however, part of an Anaheim team that couldn’t win in clutch Game 7s. Younger John Gibson’s rapid development gave Ducks management a choice in net and Andersen’s salary requests and looming restricted free agency made him marketable.

He should not face as stiff competition from Bernier, but the same was said of Bernier being better than James Reimer, who challenged the former for a few years, right up until last year’s trade to San Jose.

Before Monday’s trade, there was talk of UFA Reimer coming back to the Leafs or promoting one of the Marlie kids, Garret Sparks or Antoine Bibeau. Both youngsters had ill-timed hiccups in the AHL playoffs, but Lamoriello hinted one of them could be a factor in coming years, perhaps if Bernier is exposed in the Las Vegas expansion draft.

Speaking from his off-season home in Anaheim, Andersen said he wasn’t fazed by starting with the NHL’s last place team. He joked about lobbying for a seven-year deal.

“It’s a young team and more prospects are coming up,” Andersen said. “They’re better than the standings show. I know how hard they work (the Leafs always seem to play well in Anaheim). It’s a big hockey market, I’ll be developing with a young team, they’re hungry.”

On what to expect at camp, Andersen said “nothing is given to you”, a signal he expects to fight Bernier for the No. 1 job. But he says his personal trainer Scot Prohaska sat down with him years ago and worked out a fitness and technique plan that would get him to the NHL and keep him there.

“It’s not bad to be 6-foot-4, but you have to be able to move, too,” Andersen said.

He’ll be opposing Babcock at the World Cup in Toronto as one of three goalies for Team Europe, with Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss. Babcock is coaching Team Canada in the same Group A with the Czechs and Americans.

“I know Mike is a very good coach, he’s had a lot of success,” Andersen said. “He knows what it takes to get it done.”

With Andersen, the Leafs as a whole can think about to accelerating that plan.


THE BOOK ON FREDDIE

Name: G Frederik Andersen

Vitals: 26 years old, 6-foot-4, 230 pounds

Background: Born in Herning, Denmark, a region that has produced the country’s top NHLers, Jannik Hansen and Nicklas Jensen. Played three years in Denmark, one year pro in Sweden. Drafted 187th overall by Carolina in 2010, but he didn’t sign, went back in the draft and was taken 87th by Anaheim in 2012. NHL all-rookie team in 2013-14 (20-5-0)

Last season/career: 22-9-4, 2.30 GAA, .919 save percentage/77-26-12, 2.33, .918

Scouting report: While he had size as a youngster, he wasn’t taken too seriously because of mobility issues. Worked on that in North America and improved his value tremendously. Also impressed coaches as a battler for rebounds.

Did you know?: In a Ducks’ fan nickname contest for Andersen, the winner was The Great Dane.

Email: LHornby@postmedia.com

Twitter: @sunhornby