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Manny Legace or Michael Leighton? Who Stays?

Has Manny Legace played his last game at the RBC for the Carolina Hurricanes? (photo by LTD)

The Carolina Hurricanes have a tough decision to make within the next day or two. Franchise goaltender, Cam Ward, is expected to return to action Wednesday for the game against the Devils. When he is reactivated, it will give the team a total of three goalies on the roster, one too many.

So, who stays and who goes. Michael Leighton or Manny Legace?

It could be argued that Legace has been the better of the two. He certainly has the best stats. Not only is his GAA and SV% better, he has three of the team's six wins for the season, one more than even Ward has.

2009 - Manny Legace 9 525 3 4 28 3.20 263 235 .894 0

2009 - Michael Leighton 7 350 1 4 25 4.29 164 139 .848 0

2009 - Cam Ward 15 829 2 9 41 2.97 406 365 .899 0

Legace ended up playing much more than Leighton did since coming to Raleigh. The coaching staff never did seem to have much confidence in Leighton and played him sparingly over the past two seasons while he has been Ward's backup.

When Ward was first injured the Hurricanes immediately went outside of the organization, then signed and played Legace the very first chance they could as they apparently assumed the newcomer, who had a losing record in the AHL at the time, would be better than their seldom used backup.

In Leighton's defense, he started to play better when he was given a chance and was getting into a groove before suffering a groin injury at Montreal. He's a bigger goalie and takes up more room in the net.

But there is more to this decision than stats, size of the goalie, or wins and losses. This could come down to money.

Michael Leighton has a guaranteed one way contract which pays him a total of $600,000 this year, whether he is assigned to Albany or stays in Raleigh. Manny Legace has a two-way deal which pays him $550,000 at the NHL level and $105,000 otherwise.

If the team tries to waive Leighton and send him to Albany, they still have to pay his current salary. Keep in mind, they are already paying Tim Conboy his one way deal of $500,000, which is major league money to perform for a minor league team.

If you think a bit more about this, it gets even more complicated. The plan was for Mike Murphy and Justin Peters to share the load for the River Rats, with the better goalie perhaps getting the lion's share of the work. If either Leighton or Legace get sent to Albany, Murphy would probably get shuffled to Florida, possibly altering his development.

Or, either goalie might be claimed on the waiver wire, never making it to Albany. There are teams in the league pretty desperate for affordable goaltending. Again based upon statistics and contract status, Legace would appear to be more attractive on waivers and might be more apt to be claimed, then Leighton.

Maybe the Canes want one of the goalies to be picked up on waivers and will make their decision based upon that criteria?

People seem split about what might happen. Some, like John Forlsund, think the decision is a no-brainer because of the contract differences. Forslund said on 99.9 The Fan's Aftermath with Mike Maniscalco that he felt Legace would be waived because of his contract.

Dave Droschak has a different opinion. He thinks the team has more confidence in Legace and they might keep the more experienced netminder. At this stage of the season, the Canes would only be saving about $300,000 in salary anyway. Plus, you never know how Ward will do when he returns.

Could he aggravate the injury? Could he be rusty after missing a month of game action? The team should certainly not over-play him, they should try to ease him back into the swing of things, meaning they will need the more reliable backup.

It's not an easy decision, what do you think? Should the Canes keep Michael Leighton or Manny Legace? Should they keep the tandem of Murphy and Peters in Albany or move one of them to Florida? Do you think Legace or Leighton will get picked up on waivers?