Goalie Jonas Hiller has never played an NHL game for a team other than the Anaheim Ducks, but the Swiss backstop will embark upon a new journey this season after signing a reported two-year deal with the Calgary Flames:
Bob McKenzie of TSN was first to report the news on Hiller's deal:
Hiller experienced plenty of highs and lows during his seven seasons in Anaheim. While he posted solid numbers on a consistent basis, it always seemed as though there was someone breathing down his neck and pushing him for playing time.
Never was that truer than during the 2013-14 playoffs. Hiller won 29 games and had respectable peripherals with a 2.48 goals against average and .911 save percentage during the regular season. Despite that, he played in just six postseason games and ceded the starting job to a pair of rookies in Frederik Andersen and then John Gibson.
With head coach Bruce Boudreau turning to inexperienced netminders like Andersen and Gibson, Hiller essentially saw the writing on the wall, according to Greg Beachem of the Associated Press:
Hiller replaced Gibson in Anaheim's blowout loss to the Los Angeles Kings in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals and figured that was the final stanza in his Ducks career, per Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register:
Hitting free agency gave Hiller a golden opportunity to pick and choose a more favorable landing spot. Goalies aren't necessarily at a premium these days, but plenty of teams entered free agency with a need at the position.
Even though Hiller was looking forward to a new beginning at the end of the season, he admitted that leaving Anaheim after so many great moments and memories would be difficult, according to the Associated Press., via CBC.ca:
There's probably a real good chance that I've played my last game with the Ducks. Thinking about it kind of makes me feel sad, because (it's been) quite a few great years here. It always feels weird when something like that comes to an end. You're kind of always hoping, but at the same time, sometimes you have to face reality. ... If it's going to be a new challenge, I'm excited about that, too.
If negotiations had gone a bit differently, though, it is entirely possible that Hiller would still be a Duck. Per Beachem, Hiller was in talks to re-sign during his best stretch of the 2013-14 season, but nothing came to fruition:
It is tough to blame the Ducks for switching gears since both Andersen and Gibson are talented, young goalies with bright futures. Hiller is a solid, established guy, but he isn't exactly a spring chicken at 32 years of age.
The manner in which Hiller was handled during the playoffs was definitely questionable, though. His numbers weren't bad by any means, yet Boudreau seemed extremely reluctant and unwilling to hand the reins over to him fully.
It is entirely possible that the same problem will manifest itself in Hiller's new locale, but he most definitely needed a fresh start. Hiller isn't an elite goaltender, but he is a former All-Star who has proven capable of leading teams to great success in the regular season.
That has yet to translate to the playoffs, but it isn't uncommon for goalies to be late bloomers in that regard.
Hiller didn't always get a fair shake in Anaheim, but this is his chance to prove that he can carry the load and be something more than a caretaker between the pipes. He figures to have a chip on his shoulder this season and beyond, and that should make him a very tough goalie to play against.
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