Senators keep pending UFA Mike Condon for three years, $7.2 million
So much for the imminent split between Mike Condon and the Ottawa Senators.
Despite pessimistic talk from Senators general manager Pierre Dorion shortly after the season ended, Condon passed on the chance to be an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and instead signed a three-year, $7.2 million contract to stay in Ottawa.
Condon, who was 19-14-6 with a .914 save percentage in 40 appearances last season, will remain in Ottawa through the end of the 2019-20 season, costing the club an annual salary cap hit of $2.4 million on a back-loaded deal. According to the official release on Wednesday, the 27-year-old netminder will get paid $1.7 million in 2017-18, $2.5 million the following year, and round out his deal with a $3 million payout in the final season.
The Holliston, Massachusetts native wasn’t the biggest name on the goaltending free agent market this summer but had been linked to other teams since the free agency courting period opened Monday. His .914 save percentage in all situations was sixth among pending unrestricted free agents with 20 or more regular season games played last season, and with a report that veteran starter Ryan Miller could sign with Anaheim Ducks for just $1 million in base salary, it will be interesting to see how Condon’s contract affects the backup market.
It seems a high price for an undrafted goalie who went from the Montreal Canadiens to the Pittsburgh Penguins on a waiver claim at the start of last season and was then acquired by the Senators for a fifth-round pick in the 22017 NHL Draft in early November. Given the Senators situation, Dorion may have felt it necessary to guarantee he ended up with a player he knew and trusted rather than fighting over what he saw as lesser options of the market in free agency. Despite talks with the Washington Capitals about acquiring their backup, Philipp Grubauer, Ottawa’s first choice was always keeping Condon, who proved capable of carrying the starting job while playing 27 straight games when No.1 Craig Anderson was away from the team to be with his wife, Nicholle, in her cancer battle in December and January.
According to Condon the desire to stay was mutual.
“Throughout the whole negotiating process I iterated that I wanted to stay in Ottawa,” Condon told the Senators’ website. “I love the fit, I love everything about it and I didn’t really want to go anywhere else. I’m happy that we came to an agreement and I’m happy that this process is over.”
For Condon, who nearly walked away from hockey while trying to finish his Princeton degree as an ECHL backup, the security is welcome, especially after being on three teams last season.
“I’m not sure what day it was but sometime in the middle of October, that was certainly a tough time and a very uncertain future about my career after I was put on waivers,” said Condon, who also had five shutouts last season. “Even getting picked up by Pittsburgh was very lucky since they were the last waiver claim and there was a lot of uncertainty there. I was then very fortunate to get traded to a team as good as Ottawa and to be given an opportunity to play. When I look back to that time to where I am now, it’s been such a wild ride. I’ve had so many fortunate breaks. It’s been a long year and I’m very happy with the outcome.”
Ottawa’s other option was Andrew Hammond, who is still recovering from hip surgery. The 29-year-old has one more season left on a contract worth $1.35 million annually but with multiple injuries in the last two years and poor results during his healthy stretches, and with Anderson, who turned 36 in May, targeted to ideally play 50 games it’s reasonable to assume that the Senators weren’t comfortable counting on Hammond to be a No.2.
Condon’s game has been detailed here in the past; he’s not the most technically precise goaltender in the league but plays a controlled game and offers a neutral depth that doesn’t rely overly on establishing rhythm or impeccable timing. Condon made strides reducing some of the counter-rotation and wasted movement in his movement with first-year Senators goalie coach Pierre Groulx last season and is well suited in terms of style to handle long gaps between starts as a result.