David Legwand wants to make something perfectly clear. He’s not the second coming of Jason Spezza, a player he labels as “a very rare offensive talent” and “a point-a-game guy” in a league where goals rarely come easily.
Yet his signing as a free agent Friday is a piece of good news for a Senators fan base left wondering about the hole in the middle of the lineup since Spezza was traded to the Dallas Stars on Tuesday. The week which started with the trading away of Spezza, a 12-year NHL veteran centre who was originally a second overall draft selection, ended with the team acquiring Legwand, a 15-year NHL veteran centre who was originally a second overall draft selection.
The 33-year-old scored 14 goals and 37 assists in 83 games with the Nashville Predators and Detroit Red Wings last season and he has netted 214 goals and 363 assists in 977 career NHL games.
His arrival should take some pressure off Kyle Turris and Mika Zibanejad. Legwand said in a conference call Friday that he believes he can serve as a second line centre with the Senators, “helping out in all areas”, including aiding in the development of the Senators prospects. The long time Predator — his 15-year stay in Nashville ended with a trade deadline deal to Detroit in March — carefully considered his options before agreeing to a two-year, $6 million with the Senators, a smart contract for a team which always wades carefully into the free agency feeding frenzy.
Legwand’s time in the Western Conference gave him familiarity and respect for Senators coach Paul MacLean, who had previously served as an assistant coach in Detroit. “He’s a great hockey person, he was coach of the year (in 2012-13) for a reason,” he said. “That had a lot to do with Detroit’s success.”
He also spoke to current Predator and former Senators fan favourite Mike Fisher, along with former Senator and current TSN 1200 host Jason York, who both provided positive feedback about Ottawa.
Senators general manager Bryan Murray is likely not done yet. He continues to pursue a trade, trying to acquire a physical winger, but by bringing in Legwand it puts to rest any talk that Philadelphia Flyers veteran centre Vincent Lecavalier could be coming here. Interestingly enough, Lecavalier was the only player selected ahead of Legwand at the 1998 entry draft.
When Legwand was drafted by Nashville, he was touted as a future scoring star in the NHL, a player who might eventually lead the Predators to the Stanley Cup. While he never reached elite offensive status — his high-water numbers came in 2006-07 when he scored 27 goals and 36 assists in 78 games — he was a steady two-way performer for long-time Predators coach Barry Trotz.
That’s the type of player Murray is hoping for.
“David is a good veteran centre, a guy who skates pretty well and gets up and down the ice,” Murray said in an audio statement released by the Senators. “He’s an experienced guy who can fit in either at the top or bottom of the lineup. He has been a captain and a leader, so we know we’re getting a good person.”
The Senators depth at centre now includes Turris, Zibanejad, Legwand, Zack Smith, Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Derek Grant. While prospect Curtis Lazar played centre with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League, the Senators will likely, at least for the time being, keep him at right wing.
When the disappointing 2013-14 season ended, Murray said he wanted to add a “harder” forward, a player who has yet to be brought in.
“Discussions about a trade having been going on for a period of time now,” said Murray, suggesting there has been a back and forth on exactly what prospects could be involved in the package. The deal could include a defenceman. The Senators have seven defencemen on guaranteed NHL contracts and after Cody Ceci’s strong rookie season, he’s expected to be back in Ottawa’s lineup next season.
Legwand spent some time Friday raving about star Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson. He also talked about his excitement about playing in Canada for the first time in his career and in trying to get the somewhat new-look Senators back into the playoffs.
“Playing in a Canadian market, that’s something that has already intrigued me after being in Nashville,” said Legwand, a Detroit native. “It’s a winter city, a hockey market. It’s going to be fun.”
It shouldn’t take Legwand that long to adapt to a new season in a new place. The Senators open the 2014-15 season in Nashville.
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