GARRIOCH: Craig Anderson has moved on from the Ottawa Senators to another nation’s capital
Everything was different in 2020, and in Craig Anderson’s case it meant a change of scenery.
It was strange to see the former Ottawa Senators goaltender arrive on a Zoom chat wearing a Washington Capitals sweatshirt Wednesday after taking a skate with a group he hopes will be his new teammates when training camp comes to a close early next week.
The 39-year-old Anderson spent a decade with Ottawa before the club didn’t renew his contract. It’s believed there was interest from the Florida Panthers, but in the end he agreed to a professional tryout with the Capitals after it was learned Henrik Lundqvist needed heart surgery.
Anderson has had to battle the odds before in his career and he’ll have to do it again to make the Capitals.
“I’m just trying to come in here and blend in with the guys, and show that I can compete and contribute, and that I’ve got something to give to the team.”
He spent the off-season at his home in Coral Springs, Fla., with his family and started ramping up to get ready for camp four months ago. Anderson wasn’t sure he would get another chance in his NHL career when he wasn’t brought back by Ottawa, but he wanted to stay ready just the same.
The club has Ilya Samsonov as the starter and Vitek Vanecek under contract, but teams will be carrying three goalies with the taxi squad this year. You have to think there’s a spot for Anderson.
“I took a little break from hockey and I got into coaching baseball with my little guy,” Anderson said. “I started to be a family man and do the day-to-day with family. You put the hockey on the back burner and it kind of drives that passion to drive back in. Four months ago, I got back into the gym and started to stay in shape as best I could.
“The way things played out, it was tough to get ice and tough to get where you need to be. This is kind of the first week of getting back into it and seeing where I am on the ice.”
The Caps had signed Lundqvist as an unrestricted free agent from the New York Rangers, but learned he wouldn’t be able to play because of his heart issue just before Christmas. They want a veteran and Anderson has a chance to be part of the answer, but he has to earn a contract in a camp that doesn’t include any exhibition games.
“The way things ended (in Ottawa), I think personally I felt I’d like to go and give it my all and say I gave it my last shot to compete,” said Anderson. “I feel like I still can compete; the first couple of days and even (Wednesday), I was still getting my feet underneath me, but I feel like I can contribute.
“Mentally, it feels good. I’m prepared for that and I’m coming out and doing it. It’s really easy in the summer to kick your feet up and pass the time. That drive to get to the gym, get into shape and feel that I was physically ready, after a couple of months at home kind of sitting on your hands, that drive and passion is still there.”