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The Week in Fantasy: Craig Anderson is a Conundrum

In just a few weeks, he’ll be regaining the Senators’ starting job. But there’s a problem.

Minnesota Wild v Ottawa Senators

Craig Anderson is going to be the starting goalie for the Ottawa Senators when he comes back from his leave of absence due to his wife’s cancer treatment. He just rejoined the Senators for practice. But he won’t be starting for two to three weeks. This is a big problem in fantasy circles.

Anderson is currently a free agent in 30% of Yahoo! fantasy hockey leagues and Mike Condon has been a fantastic find as a backup. Those are both good things for someone who has had fantasy goalie problems in the past and future. Condon shored things up and now Anderson will guide you toward the playoffs.

The problem is that if you’ve had enough goalie problems to be lusting over a Craig Anderson return, your team probably isn’t exactly a lock to make the playoffs. Goalie is responsible for nearly half the fantasy categories in most standard leagues, making it the most important position, and you can only carry two or three to remain competitive on the skater category side.

So you need goalies to win, is the point. If you haven’t quit your league yet and still are within spitting distance of the playoffs, you’ve probably had good goaltending to some degree. You’ve either struck it rich with Condon or Peter Budaj or avoided the disaster in Dallas or have Devan Dubnyk. To be alive at this point probably means that your goaltending is surviving.

But the teams with Dubnyk are probably safely in the playoffs and not eyeing the exact date Anderson will return. They don’t need him. It’s the teams living with Condon or surviving the Ben Bishop experience who need him and want him. But because they’re likely not as good due to not having the same quality of goaltending as the top teams, they can’t afford to stash a goalie like that on the roster when everyone knows he’s not coming back for a couple weeks at best.

If you’re on the playoff bubble, every roster spot and game played is key and can swing a category for a week. One category could be big and get you where you need to go, even for just one week. Are you really going to sacrifice your backup left wing for Anderson, who importantly, can’t be placed on the injured reserve as he was not technically injured? He’s going to be taking an active roster spot, making him different from someone like Jonathan Huberdeau, who can be stashed effectively.

A few goals and assists from a backup forward are going to have more of an impact, guaranteed, over the next two+ weeks than Craig will. But if you find a way to sneak into the playoffs, Anderson is probably going to have a much bigger impact. Unfortunately, you have to choose. You won’t just be able to add Anderson later.

A team with a cushion for the playoffs is probably going to be the one that adds Anderson and stashes him on their active roster. They can afford it and take the chance that he turns into his usual self, giving them a boost in the fantasy playoffs. The teams that need him more just can’t sacrifice that roster spot during the regular season with the playoffs very much at risk.

This is a terrible conundrum for teams who have Mike Condon playing fantastically between the pipes. He’s not going to matter in the fantasy playoffs even if you get there, but you need him to get there before Anderson comes back. Then he’ll be useless once the season winds down. It’s a problem.

Someone with Condon may want to snatch up Anderson right now since they may be up a creek if Condon carries them to the playoffs, but you have to weigh that against what you’d get from a reserve forward right now and the possibility of finding another goalie who is getting late season reps who could replace Condon’s statistics to some degree provided a team with cushion to absorb the inactive Anderson picks him up earlier.

That would be the plan I would ultimately recommend. As teams fall farther out of the playoff race, they’re likely to give more reps to backup goalies or guys who are mysteries. Anderson will likely be better than any of them, but your reserve forward plus that late season goalie may make it more likely to even get to the playoffs, where you won’t be helped if Anderson being stashed on your bench prevents you from getting there at all.

There could be goalie injuries or a 2006 Cristobal Huet breakthrough out of nowhere or someone on the Blues coming through and playing competently. But there will be positive free agent goalie developments, you just have to be there to snap them up to avoid the sinking feeling of not having Craig Anderson since you couldn’t afford to stash him. But I think it’s worth the risk.