After a brilliant start to his NHL career, Anaheim Ducks rookie goaltender Viktor Fasth was rewarded with a new contract on Wednesday, which was a smart move by general manager Bob Murray.
Per the Ducks:
The Ducks have signed goaltender Viktor Fasth to a two-year contract extension through the 2014-15 NHL season. Per club policy, no financial terms of the deal were disclosed
“Viktor has proven himself not only this year in the NHL, but the previous two seasons as the top goaltender in Sweden,” said Ducks Executive Vice President/General Manager Bob Murray. “We are pleased to be able to keep him and feel fortunate to have two top NHL goaltenders going forward.”
Fasth, 30 (8/8/82), has appeared in nine contests for Anaheim this season, posting a perfect 8-0-0 record (one no decision) with a 1.78 goals-against average (GAA) and a .933 save percentage (SV%). The 6-0, 186-pound netminder is just the third goaltender in NHL history to win his first eight-or-more career decisions (also Ray Emery with Ottawa, an NHL record 9-0-0 from 2003-05 and Bob Froese with Philadelphia, 8-0-0 in Jan. 1983). Co-leading the NHL in wins, Fasth also ranks sixth in GAA and tied for seventh in SV%.
According to Lisa Dillman of The Los Angeles Times, Fasth will receive $5.8 million over two years.
One more nugget re the goalie with the golden name: Fasth... $2.4 mil the first year, $3.4 the second— lisa dillman (@reallisa) February 20, 2013
Timing is everything, and for the Ducks, the timing of this contract could not be more perfect, and here's why.
What if Fasth continues to perform at an elite level and becomes a Vezina Trophy finalist this season, or actually wins the award? At that point, re-signing the 30-year-old would have been far more expensive because he could have become an unrestricted free agent in July.
A Vezina Trophy winner hitting free agency would attract interest from a lot of teams, and if there's one position that general managers will overpay to upgrade in the offseason, it's goaltender.
Since Minnesota Wild star Niklas Backstrom is the only top-tier goalie expected to be a UFA this summer, there will be a lot of demand and very little supply in terms of quality goaltending on the free agent market, which means player agents will try to spark bidding wars between desperate teams.
The Ducks did not want to find themselves in that position, and that's why signing Fasth to a short-term deal with an AAV of $2.4 million was a great decision.
When teams find quality goaltenders, especially from within their organization, they lock them up as soon as possible before they become ultra-expensive to-resign. It's smart roster management, especially in the salary cap era.
If Fasth struggles and is unable to play as well as he is now over a full season, it won't be a horrible situation for Anaheim because he's not making a lot of money and his salary will come off the payroll in 2014.
It's too early to tell if Fasth is the real deal or not, but signing him to a two-year deal worth less than $6 million is a low-risk/high-reward move for the Ducks, especially when you consider the fact that he has all the talent needed to be a No. 1 goalie in the NHL for a long time.
The future of veteran goaltender Jonas Hiller is another issue for the Ducks to determine. He is struggling to perform at a high level following a disappointing 2011-12 season, and the Ducks may be forced to make Fasth the team's No. 1 goalie for the future.
Hiller's save percentage and GAA declined last year compared to his impressive 2010-11 season, and those same numbers have gotten worse in 2013 through seven games. Take a look at Hiller's stats from the last two-plus seasons.
Anaheim finished 19th in goals against (2.73 per game) last season, and with Fasth starting the majority of the team's games in 2013, the Ducks are now ranked 14th in this category.
If Fasth is going to be the starting goaltender for the present and future, the Ducks may look to trade Hiller because having a backup with a $4.5 million salary cap hit (per Capgeek) isn't an ideal situation. Fasth has the ability to give the Ducks better production than Hiller for a better price.
Moving the 31-year-old veteran for a draft pick would be a smart move because the 2013 NHL Draft is deep with talent, and there will be plenty of quality prospects for teams to target in the later rounds.
Ducks fans should be very happy with the amount of talent their team has assembled at the goaltender position. In addition to Fasth and Hiller, Anaheim also has one of the top goalie prospects in John Gibson, who led Team USA to the gold medal at the 2013 World Junior Championships at the tournament MVP. Gibson is currently playing for the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL.
Now that Fasth has a new contract for two more seasons, Murray's next challenge will be to re-sign superstar forwards Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf to new long-term deals before the April 3 trade deadline.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. He was a credentialed reporter at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2012 NHL playoffs.