Here's a hockey player no one ever saw coming to Carolina when the season started in October.
At thirty-six-years-old and maybe 5-9 in skates, Manny Legace was playing on a "try-out" contract for the Thrashers AHL Team in Chicago when the NHL season started last fall. As Legace described it, on Saturday night November 7, he was attending a rookie event with his Chicago teammates when he received an urgent text from his agent, this coming within 24 hours after the devastating cut suffered by the Hurricanes' #1 netminder Cam Ward in Columbus. Another day and a half later and Legace's gear was in the dressing room at the RBC Center when the Canes regular back-up goalie for almost two seasons, Michael Leighton, (I know, I know) arrived at practice Monday morning. The announcement of Legace's contract was made an hour later.
By December, Ward was back in action, Leighton was gone and Legace had a regular gig in the NHL.
After the jump, take a look at the stats and the story before you grade the player.
#34 / Goalie / Carolina Hurricanes
Feb 04, 1973
|2009 - 10 Manny Legace||28||1472||10||7||5||69||2.81||745||676||.907||1|
Last month, when we looked at three very different Hurricanes who manned the pipes this season, Legace, Ward, and Justin Peters, our readers chose Legace as the teams' best of the three. His veteran presence in practice was noted for being as much his contribution to the team as were his scrappy saves when his game was on. As Chip Alexander wrote in a feature on Legace for the N&O in March:
The Good: Legace was parachuted from the AHL into a snakepit of trouble in November and quickly helped out the Hurricanes with both his steady (and even, on occasion, spectacular) work in goal and his self-deprecating demeanor. Beating out Michael Leighton to get the back-up position when Ward returned a month later, Legace went on to be a reliable presence when Ward was again sidelined with back problems in February. The veteran's play was in fact a key to the impressive run of wins by the Canes as they attempted a comeback in the second half of the season. He put together a remarkable stretch of five consecutive wins defined by a 1.59 GAA, .941 save percentage, and Carolina's first and only shutout of the season.
The Bad: Like any goalie with a struggling team, Legace did give up some inopportune goals when the Canes needed the big save - the late one in Ottawa on April 1st stands out as the dream-killer. His save % of .907 over 28 games on the season was good enough to be tied at 28th in the NHL. (Cam Ward's .916 over 47 games ranked at 14th). His 2.81 Goals Allowed Average put him at 33rd. Adequate stats, but no where near enough to be considered elite.
The Money: You don't find NHL players any cheaper than this. At $500,000 for the NHL-portion of a two-way contract, Legace was easy on the Hurricanes' budget this year. For comparison's sake, the Islanders' Martin Biron (9-14-4, 3.27 GAA, .896%) put up worse stats for $1.4mil this year, and the Blues' paid their backup Ty Conklin ( 10-10-2, 2.48GAA, .921%) $1.3mil.
In March, we discussed here whether Legace should be re-signed or if Justin Peters is ready to play at the NHL level full-time, and the only thing that was clear was that there is no consensus on this choice. Yet another interesting story for this off-season in Raleigh.
What say you?