The Problem With Signing Mike Condon

wtf

I didn’t think I was going to have to write this post, but it’s become apparent that further explanations are required for why I (and Nichols and others) have a problem with signing Mike Condon to this kind of extension. Lets go through it, shall we?

Everyone agrees the Sens need a backup goaltender (I’m not sure how a team could function without one). Neither signed prospect (Chris Driedger nor Marcus Hogberg) is ready for the task, but prior to Condon‘s signing it was still possible former hero Andrew Hammond could take the gig–he has a year left on his deal after all. So this, then, is our first dilemma: what do we do with Hammond? There are four choices:
1) Keep him and have him play out his contract as the backup
You hope he regains the form that had when the team signed him to his overly optimistic deal (I mean, who gives a guy a 3-year deal after just one good pro season, right?)
2) Keep him, but bury him in the minors
This only costs money, although it does mean Hogberg (or Driedger) has to play for an ECHL affiliate throughout most of the season (barring the team being able to loan Hammond to another AHL team), which is hardly ideal
3) Buy him out
This also only costs money, but there’s no value returned to the team, so it’s the least appealing option
4) Trade him
The ideal choice, although it’s difficult to do particularly with goaltenders since back-ups are a dime-a-dozen; as a devalued asset with just one good half-season on his resume, the pot might have to be sweetened with a draft pick, but Ottawa’s never shirked from surrendering those assets

So much for the hypothetical. Clearly the Sens pushed the button on #4 sometime during this season, but rather than trying to move Hammond then, they left him hanging until now. On the plus side, there was no urgency in acquiring a backup goaltender. While starting goaltenders are extremely difficult to find, there are always more qualified backups than positions. On numerous occasions in Sens history (including both the discussed ‘tenders), Ottawa has been forced to use someone other than their planned backup and had no difficulty doing so. So, urgency level is zero. This would be different, incidentally, if the team didn’t have a firmly established #1–then you want true competition with two talented players–that’s not the case here, these are benchwarmers.

Why the complaints about Condon specifically? His numbers, as Nichols delves into (link above), are below average. Take away his hot start and he’s nothing to run a temperature over (.908, 2.64). This, and his career as a journeymen, sound alarm bells–the same alarms that went off before they signed Hammond to his 3-year deal. If you want to argue Condon is a known quantity and the org feels comfortable with him, that’s fine, but signing him for three years, especially at such a high cost (2.4/year), is a pointless risk that will almost inevitably blow up in their faces. The comparison between he and Hammond is particular apt–both were 26/27 when they had their one good season, both are NCAA grads, neither was drafted, and both have worrying underlying numbers and track record. The only way to justify the deal is to suggest Condon is going to maintain a performance level that’s happened just once, briefly, in his career. It’s implausible and that’s why I (and others) dislike the move.

The other point that I made was that by signing Condon every NHL team now knows the Sens are desperate to trade Hammond (you can argue that they knew before, but there’s a difference between guessing and certainty and Ottawa has given them certainty). This means they have no leverage whatsoever in moving him–they’re guaranteed a bad deal, assuming they can even make one. While I doubt Hammond has much value, there are well-established ways of pumping the tires of the trade market–be ambiguous about keeping Condon, talk about Hammond‘s run and how he’s been derailed by injury, but now that he’s healthy he’ll be back on track! Have The Ottawa Sun talk about external interest, etc.  In this scenario any value back for him is a bonus, but now that’s impossible. If an NHL team actually wants Hammond they’ll just wait for the Sens to buy him out, or else force them to include something else (a pick, an asset), or demand Ottawa take a bad asset in return. There’s no good scenario with how Ottawa has handled it. The only “positive” that can be argued here is to suggest it was impossible to move Hammond earlier (or at all) and that the team desperately needed to sign Condon since there’s no other player who could fulfill his role. Even if the former is true the Sens never actually made the attempt until it was too late and the latter point needs a hell of a lot more justification than I’ve seen.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)