The Ottawa Senators dubbed Craig Anderson their goalie of the present Monday, a move that also sent a loud and clear message to their brash young goalie of the future.
That is: “You’re not ready. Not even close.”
At the tail end of his press conference announcing the four-year, $12.75 million Anderson signing, general manager Bryan Murray discussed a meeting he had with 19-year-old Robin Lehner the week before.
Murray said he should have signed an older, more established player so the Swedish netminder could have spent more time this season riding the bus and starting games in AHL Binghamton.
Lehner disagreed — no surprise given his supreme self-confidence.
“He doesn’t think (being in the NHL) would hurt him,” Murray said of the Swedish netminder.
“He thinks that being here with the shooters, the goaltending coach, the practice, have been a good thing for him, and he feels comfortable with it,” Murray continued. “But, as a management guy, I’ve always felt that playing games is better than practice.”
Lehner talks a good game, but the hope is he’ll take the reins next year and actually back it up on the ice.
Between his own injuries (he’s currently recovering from back spasms) and spot duty in the NHL while Murray sorted out Ottawa’s goaltending mess, this has been something of a lost campaign for Lehner.
He has made just 26 appearances in professional hockey games this season, posting a 1-4 record in the NHL and a 7-7-2 mark on the farm. Lehner also started three games for Sweden at the World Junior Hockey Championship.
Despite the long-term commitment to Anderson, the organization still believes Lehner will be ‘the guy’ one day down the road.
“You know what, it’s all the mental state of the player,” Murray said. “If he goes down now and works hard and plays decent and gets some games in that league, it won’t be a bad thing.”
Lehner can’t be too upset about Monday’s events, anyways. He asked for it.
It a recent interview with the Citizen in Binghamton, Lehner made it clear he wouldn’t be intimidated by Anderson or anyone else.
“I hope we can keep Anderson and I can fight and hunt him, and that’s my style of my game, it always has been,” Lehner said. “I’m hunting the goalies in front of me, and Craig is going to be a good target for me.”
Let the hunt begin.