The Anaheim Ducks signed Viktor Fasth to a two-year, $5.8 million contract extension on Wednesday, rewarding the Swedish goalie for his 8-0-0 start to his first NHL season.
Fasth earned a new contract after just nine unbeaten appearances with the Pacific Division-leading Ducks, who have the NHL’s second-best record at 12-2-1. He’ll make $2.4 million next season and $3.4 million in 2014-15.
“You always try to do your best and play your best, try to help the team as much as you can,” Fasth said in a phone interview. “That’s what I’ve been trying to focus on, and that’s what I have to keep doing, to do my part.”
The Ducks signed the 30-year-old Fasth to be Jonas Hiller’s backup last summer after a stellar pro career in his native Sweden, outbidding other NHL teams with a $1 million, one-year contract.
With Hiller slowed by a lower-body injury, Fasth has been largely outstanding in his place, making nine appearances with a 1.78 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage while tying for the league lead in victories.
Fasth is just the third goalie in NHL history to win his first eight decisions, joining Ray Emery and Bob Froese. He’s one win away from matching Emery’s record 9-0-0 start to his career with Ottawa.
He’s also playing a major role in the outstanding start by the Ducks, who have missed the playoffs in two of the last three years. Anaheim, currently on a five-day break between games, has won five straight while rising to second place in the Western Conference behind Chicago.
“Viktor has proven himself not only this year in the NHL, but the previous two seasons as the top goaltender in Sweden,” Ducks general manager Bob Murray said. “We are pleased to be able to keep him and feel fortunate to have two top NHL goaltenders going forward.”
Anaheim relied heavily last season on Hiller, who set a club record with an NHL-high 73 starts. The Ducks were determined not to wear down their former All-Star from Switzerland, and Fasth has provided coach Bruce Boudreau with two outstanding options.
Fasth won a shootout against Nashville in his NHL debut on Jan. 26, and he posted his first shutout at Colorado on Feb. 6.
Hiller outplayed longtime Ducks goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere to claim the Anaheim starting job during the 2008-09 season, but Hiller hasn’t lost his own starting job to Fasth quite yet. Hiller made 25 saves against Columbus on Monday night for his first victory in 18 days.
When asked if he considered himself the Ducks’ starter, Fasth replied: “No, I don’t.”
“Jonas played against Columbus and played incredibly good,” he added. “I just try to work hard, and I’ll play when the coach tells me to play. That’s how things work.”
Hiller is under contract through 2013-14, making $4.5 million this season and again next year.
Fasth has thoroughly impressed the Ducks with his smooth positional play and exceptional stick work, but the veteran netminder was expected to be a solid NHL player. He was named the Swedish Elite League’s top goaltender in each of the past two seasons with AIK Stockholm, the first goalie to win back-to-back Honken Trophies since New York Rangers star Henrik Lundqvist.
Fasth also played at the 2011 world championships in Slovakia, backstopping Sweden to silver medals while winning the tournament MVP award and raising his profile among international hockey watchers.
“The national team is a window for every player to get the ice under you,” Fasth said. “The Swedish Elite League, I don’t know if there’s many scouts watching that, but of course it helps to play for the national team and play good there.”