David Leggio, who’s spent time with the Sabres, Capitals, Islanders and Coyotes organizations, has reportedly accepted a professional tryout with the Winnipeg Jets, per Buffalo Hockey Beat.
It wasn’t long ago that Leggio, now 31, was a quality AHL netminder. He went 38-24-1 with Rochester during the ’12-13 campaign, compiling a 2.56 GAA and .924 save percentage, but struggled last year between Bridgeport and Portland, and failed to land a contract this summer.
Despite some good showings at the minor-league level, Leggio has also yet to play in an NHL contest.
In Winnipeg, he’ll have a decent shot of earning a new deal. Ondrej Pavelec and Michael Hutchinson are projected to be the club’s No. 1 and No. 2 next season, but they’ll have to stave off the hard-charging Connor Hellebuyck, who played very well for Team USA at the 2015 World Hockey Championships and was recently named the NHL’s No. 1 goaltending prospect by In Goal Magazine.
Leggio should be in line for a backup gig in the American League, especially with veteran Peter Budaj having moved on.
Related: AHL changes rule following Leggio incident
As crucial as it was to make the playoffs for the first time since returning to Winnipeg, the 2015-16 season is even bigger for the Jets.
After years of frustration, management’s slow-and-steady approach showed serious returns, but the franchise is heading toward multiple forks in the road.
Let’s consider some of the big factors ahead.
Contract years for key players – Hockey fans can debate whether Dustin Byfuglien’s the biggest name on the Jets or not, but he’s the earth-shaking wild card. Andrew Ladd is the gritty, stable winger who might just be the polar opposite. They’ve been immensely important players in Winnipeg, but what does the future hold?
Aging core – It’s easy to look at 21-year-old Jacob Trouba and 22-year-old Mark Scheifele and picture a bright future, especially with a generally well-regarded farm system.
For all the future talk, it’s a make-or-break season for the current crop of key players. Byfuglien is 30, Ladd is 29, Blake Wheeler is 28 and Bryan Little is 27.
Those core players aren’t ancient, but management probably needs to see them win some playoff games (or even series) to justify keeping the band together.
Goalie question – To especially weary Winnipegers, Ondrej Pavelec’s contract probably feels endless, and it does still have two years remaining. Management is sticking with Pavelec and Michael Hutchinson, which is a short-term gamble. Are they any closer to making a decision that reaches a little further?
The Jets have some big questions to answer next season, yet let’s not forget: Winnipeg hasn’t been home to an NHL team with this sort of potential for a long, long time.
One of the bigger questions for the Winnipeg Jets heading into the 2015-16 season is who will grab the starter’s role in goal and run with it.
Ondrej Pavelec began the 2014-15 season as the Jets’ No. 1 goaltender starting 15 of the first 16 games. He started sharing the net with rookie Michael Hutchinson in late November and lost his starting role by February.
“Ondrej played through some difficult circumstances this year,” Cheveldayoff said per the Winnipeg Sun. “Pro athletes have to learn how to handle those kinds of adversities.”
Pavelec finished the season with a 22-16-8 record while posting a career-best .920 save percentage and a 2.28 G.A.A. in 50 regular season appearances. While the Jets were in the hunt for a playoff spot, Pavelec went 9-2-1 and recorded three shutouts in his final 12 decisions. The 27-year-old struggled again in the playoffs posting an .891 save percentage and a 3.73 G.A.A. as the Jets were swept by the Anaheim Ducks.
Hutchinson finished with 38 appearances last season posting a 21-10-5 record to go along with a 2.39 G.A.A. and .914 save percentage. The 25-year-old had a strong first half, but faltered down the stretch posting an .890 save percentage in his final 15 games.
Despite the inconsistencies, Cheveldayoff believes the Pavelec can be the team’s starter going forward.
“We’re excited to have him as our No. 1 goalie,” Cheveldayoff said during his end-of-season media availability. “We’re really excited to have (Hutchinson) as a guy that can push and continue to do the things that he’s done.”
Jets fans should also expect Connor Hellebuyck to challenge Hutchinson for the backup role at camp this season. Hellebuyck posted a 28-22-5 record to go along with a 2.58 G.A.A. and a .921 save percentage in his rookie season with the St. John’s IceCaps.
The 22-year-old was the starting goaltender at the AHL all-star game and represented the U.S. at the world championship leading the Americans to a third place finish.
Related: Under Pressure: Dustin Byfuglien