Frederik Andersen is embracing a new era of his NHL career with the Carolina Hurricanes and said he will face his former team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, on Monday with mostly good memories of that organization and city.
The goalie played five seasons for the Maple Leafs before he agreed to a two-year, $9 million contract (average annual value $4.5 million) with the Hurricanes on July 28. Toronto’s visit to Carolina will be the first time Andersen will be on the opposing side since leaving the Maple Leafs.
“I really enjoyed living in Toronto,” the 32-year-old said Friday. “It’s an amazing city with amazing people. There are a lot of friendships I made there, and I’m going to cherish them for a long time.”
Andersen sounds rejuvenated these days, and it’s reflected by his play in the early stages of the season. He’s 3-0-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average and .938 save percentage, and has simplified his game. He also credits the Hurricanes for making him feel at home.
“I’ve just been preparing and being in the moment and trying to get to know everyone and get acclimatized quick,” he said. “The guys have been really helpful and been really welcoming, so that’s made the transition really easy. There’s been quite a bit of turnover on our team, so it’s been pretty good. The guys that have been here have been pretty good and helpful, making all the new guys feel at home right away.”
“I think last year I was too hard on myself. Just being in good position, being set early and allowing my athletic ability to kind of come out. I think that’s been working so far.”
Selected by the Anaheim Ducks in the third round (No. 87) of the 2012 NHL Draft, Andersen is 229-100-48 with a 2.64 GAA, .915 save percentage and 19 shutouts in 396 regular-season games (384 starts) with the Ducks, Maple Leafs and Hurricanes. He is fourth in Toronto history with 149 wins, behind Turk Broda (304), Johnny Bower (219) and Felix Potvin (160).
“Of course there’s a difference in attention in the media and stuff like that,” Andersen said, comparing Toronto and Carolina. “But I think there’s pressure everywhere. It’s the same league, every team out there is trying to win. At the end of the day, as a group, we put pressure on ourselves to get the best out of us, so I think there’s pressure everywhere you look.”
Asked about reports that suggested there may have been ill will between him and the Maple Leafs prior to his departure, Andersen denied the inference.
“Not at all,” he said. “At least not on my part.”
He said one former teammate he misses playing with is Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews. The two spent time at Matthews’ home in Arizona in August after Andersen signed with the Hurricanes.
“I’m going to miss him for sure,” Matthews said last month. “He’s one of my closest friends.”
Andersen said the most frustrating part of his final season in Toronto was his struggle with a knee injury that limited him to one game after March 19. He finished the season 13-8-3 with a 2.96 GAA and .895 save percentage in 24 games (23 starts), and backed up Jack Campbell in the seven games of the loss to the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup First Round.
“I think I did what I could,” he said. “I did the best that I could to try to get as healthy as possible. It just wasn’t enough time to feel at my best.
“That is obviously is in the past. I’m happy to have had the summer that I did, to feel healthy and play again.”