Forget Curtis Joseph. Think Manny Legace.
Let the Red Wings carry a $16 million duo of Joseph and Dominik Hasek
and a distracting soap opera into the season. The great goaltending
pickup of this summer will not be CuJo or Felix Potvin, who signed
with the Bruins on Wednesday. No, the best move to get a No. 1
goaltender will be the one that nets Legace.
Look at the numbers â" and yes, they came behind a pretty good team,
but they are good enough to show he'd have a chance behind a less
Legace, 30, has been a Red Wings backup for three seasons. In 2000-
01, he played in 39 games, going 24-5-5 with a 2.05 goals-against
average and .920 save percentage. The next season, he played in 20
games but was 10-6-2 with a 2.42 GAA and .911 save percentage.
Last season, he played in 25 games, went 14-5-4 with a 2.18 GAA
and .925 save percentage. The Red Wings played him in key games down
the stretch, and scouts didn't wonder whether Legace should be
playing ahead of Joseph. They instead wondered how a team could
afford to sit its $8 million starter for the backup. In the end, the
Wings couldn't. Joseph played. Legace sat.
Now is the time for someone to get him off the bench.
Legace cannot be sent to the minors without clearing waivers, which
he'd never do, so the Wings should deal if the offer is right. Would
it leave them without a backup should they later ship off Joseph?
Yes. But that's an easier situation solved than the one they're in
now. They can deal with the future when the new collective-bargaining
agreement is signed.
Teams won't trade for Joseph until he proves his surgically repaired
ankle is OK. Even before Joseph's surgery, his $8 million price tag
was too high for most. The Wings could waive Joseph, but who would
pick up him-and his salary? Nobody. So he remains a Wing. Though he
could be sent to the minors, why would the Wings-or anyone who would
pick him up off waivers-pay someone that much to dominate the AHL?
No, Joseph will be on the NHL roster-and he must play to prove he's
sound. So there's no rush. Interested teams should sit back and let
the Red Wings sink under the weight of their embarrassment of riches.
Wait until the season drags on a bit, until the drama slows them
down, until Hasek and Joseph get tired of answering the same
questions and some of Joseph's salary has been paid by the Wings.
That's when the interested teams should make a deal. Drive the Wings
down. But that's for the loser in what should be a battle for Legace.
Attention Rangers and Blues: Make Manny Legace your No. 1. Let's see
what he's got over 60-65 games. He has shown he deserves the chance,
and he should be available for the right price. Call Wings general
manager Ken Holland and get a deal done. The Wings say Joseph will be
ready for the start of the season, so that means he'll be their
backup. Trading for Legace is a low-risk, high-reward opportunity. If
he doesn't work out, it was a $1.1 million mistake and you're back
where you started. Give the Wings a center or some youth with
potential. Give them somebody you may have to jettison when the CBA
negotiations set new rules, such as a possible salary cap.
Legace is the man you want. Forget Joseph. Let the Wings have it all-
Hasek and Joseph and endless reporters' questions. Legace, not
Joseph, is the prize in pads. And the price is right.