by Kate Shefte
General Manager Jim Rutherford wasted no time in calling for reinforcements after a horrific injury sent Cam Ward to the hospital, and then the media box for 3-4 weeks minimum (he’s flying back from Columbus today.) Faced with the prospect of having untested Michael Leighton backstop the pitiful ‘Canes for possibly more than a month, Rutherford reached in his big black bag of former ‘Canes/Whalers and plucked out Manny Legace, who was biding his time in the AHL and waiting for a situation such as this.
Legace, drafted by the Whalers in 1993, 188th overall, signed a one-year, two-way contract that will pay him half a million at the NHL level. Probably not what the NHL vet would have liked, but beggars can’t be choosers. After posting a 177-92-36 record, with a goals-against average of 2.38, a save percentage of .912 and 23 shutouts in 337 games played with Los Angeles, Detroit and St. Louis, Legace was cut by the Atlanta Thrashers during training camp, which he attended as a try-out. He has been playing with the Chicago Wolves of the AHL ever since.
Legace did not have his contract renewed last season after a so-so tenure with the St. Louis Blues. He posted good numbers his first two years, but lost his starting job and played in 29 games last year. He was bound to wind up somewhere or retire, and now he’ll try to help Carolina out of its franchise-worst season start.
He’s over the hill at 36, but unless he lights it up, this is merely a band-aid until Ward gets his stitches out. The ‘Canes’ newest addition hasn’t exactly taken the minor league by storm this year, going 2-2 with a 3.21 goals against average.
(But let’s be honest…could things really get any worse for Carolina at this point?)
Leighton finally almost got his big break, but Rutherford seemed to see that he wasn’t ready to handle Ward’s load solo. Bummer for Leights, but he’ll see some playing time.
This deal must have been cooking over the last few days because Legace was already practicing with the team this morning. Or he was just really, really excited to get away from the AHL. Perhaps a combination of the two?