Sunday, 11 September 2011

Another Stay In Chicago?

It was announced on Friday that the Vancouver Canucks added a couple of veteran players to their training camp roster in the form of tryout contracts. Forward Steve Begin and goaltender Manny Legace were brought in predominantly to give the Canucks some added competition and to push their current players a little more, but it becomes very puzzling what to do with Legace if he happens to play well enough to earn a spot with the Canucks. As seen in the picture above, it could mean that Legace is heading back to the AHL's Chicago Wolves in order for the Canucks to keep Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider on the Canucks' roster. So why bring in a guy who potentially will only fill a veteran spot on your AHL club?

There's no denying that Legace hasn't played well in his eleven seasons as an NHL netminder. He won a Stanley Cup with Detroit, was named an NHL all-star in 2007-08 with St. Louis, and has performed admirably in his career thus far. But he's 38 years old, spent last season stopping pucks in Germany, and uses up a veteran spot on the Canucks' AHL roster. Again, why go after a guy like Legace if the drawbacks outweigh the benefits, especially when his name is penciled in behind Luongo and Schneider?

I like the idea of having an NHL-ready insurance policy in case either Luongo or Schneider gets hurt next season. Eddie Lack is certainly an AHL-tested goaltender, but the jump in skill between the AHL and NHL is still large. Legace gives the Canucks a player on the farm that can step in as an NHL-ready goaltender at a moment's notice, and playing in Chicago as a member of the Wolves will keep him ready.

Of course, there's no guarantee that Legace will accept a demotion to the AHL after spending the last few weeks in Vancouver getting ready. He has earned that right, and I respect him if he decides he doesn't want to ride the buses in the AHL. After all, he's put his time in as an NHL goaltender, and he has earned the right to choose where he wants to play.

There's also a good chance that Legace won't be offered a contract if he is outplayed by one or more goaltenders in camp. Eddie Lack was outstanding as a member of the Manitoba Moose last season, and there's no reason to think the youngster will sit back and relax coming into this season. Legace will have to battle and outplay Lack in a big way if he wants to move ahead of the Swede on the depth chart.

As for Begin, he spent a lot of time in Milwaukee last season as a member of the AHL Admirals, so he's looking for a shot at making the Canucks in a third- or fourth-line role. Begin is a solid foot soldier, but it will be interesting to see if he can outplay a number of solid contributors that the Canucks and Moose showed last season. Tanner Glass is no longer with the club, but players like Aaron Volpatti and Victor Oreskovitch will be pining for that open spot on the roster. Begin, at 33 years of age, will be in tough against younger players, so he'll need to show some hunger. A lot of hunger.

As for the Canucks, these signings are really a low-risk, high-reward option for them. They essentially get two veteran players in camp for a very low cost, and there's a chance that both Begin and Legace could play their way on to the roster if they perform. At that point, the contract negotiations would begin, but the Canucks get to work out two solid NHL-calibre players without committing a year's worth of money to them.

Here's hoping it works out for both Begin and Legace, but they'll be in for a tough battle for roster spots on the reigning Western Conference Champions' roster. Both men could find themselves in Chicago at the start of the season as AHL Wolves.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

1 comment:

Peter Santellan said...

Deals like these do have a chance to work out. The Canucks also have Owen Nolan and Todd Feodruk in camp, so it will be interesting. Of course, Raffi Torres signed well into training camp and look at what he contributed. Any one of the four could have that kind of impact with little risk, if any.