Some might argue that center David Legwand has reached the twilight of his career, but the wily veteran has an opportunity to play a big role with the Ottawa Senators in 2014-15.
Legwand hasn't had to do much moving over the course of his NHL career, but the veteran forward found a new home this offseason when he signed a two-year contract in free agency with Ottawa, according to the Sens' official Twitter account:
The Nashville Predators made Legwand the first draft pick in the history of their franchise when they took him with the No. 2 overall selection in the 1998 NHL entry draft. Perhaps he never reached his fullest potential, but Legwand has carved out a nice career for himself.
The 33-year-old native of Detroit is the Predators' all-time leading scorer with 566 points in 956 games. He seemed destined to spend his entire career in Nashville, but the longtime partnership finally came to an end this past season when he was dealt to his hometown Detroit Red Wings at the trade deadline.
The Preds apparently decided that they didn't intend to re-sign the impending unrestricted free agent, so they made the difficult decision to part ways with him.
Legwand's Red Wings did make the playoffs, but their run was cut short as they fell to a superior Boston Bruins team in the first round. Legwand certainly contributed in terms of helping Detroit reach the playoffs, but he was a virtual non-factor once it got there.
Despite his postseason struggles with Detroit, Legwand was still an intriguing commodity in free agency. Centers are always at a premium, and the Senators were in desperate need of a reliable one.
Ottawa dealt franchise player Jason Spezza to the Dallas Stars, which left a gaping hole in its top six. Legwand isn't the same dynamic pivot as Spezza, but Stephen Whyno of The Canadian Press views him as a logical signing:
#Sens sign one of the bigger fish left in free agent pool by getting centre David Legwand for $6M over 2 years. Top 2C Spezza replacement.— Stephen Whyno (@SWhyno) July 4, 2014
One particular asset that comes to mind regarding Legwand is versatility. He is a metaphorical Swiss army knife in that he can do a little bit of everything and fit just about anywhere in the lineup.
According to Chris Lund of OttawaSenators.com, that is largely what compelled Sens general manager Bryan Murray to pursue him.
David is a good, veteran center. A guy that skates pretty well, gets up and down the ice, he got 51 points this year. He's an experienced guy that can fill the top or bottom of the lineup. We believe he has been a captain and a leader so we know we're getting a good person. We just think the way things shook out for us that having an experienced center that can be a decent face-off man, be a good defensive player, get points was very important at this time.
As much as Murray seems to like the fit, Legwand may be even more thrilled. Legwand likely had several teams to choose from due to the dearth of center talent on the open market, but Jason York of Sportsnet reports that Ottawa was Legwand's desired landing spot:
Just spoke with new Sen DAVID Legwand. Very excited to play in Paul Maclean's up tempo puck possession system. Ottawa was at top of his list— Jason York (@jasonyork33) July 4, 2014
With Kyle Turris almost certainly assuming the top-line center role, Legwand will be Ottawa's de facto No. 2 center to start the season. There is no guarantee that he will remain in that spot for the entirety of the season, but Legwand doesn't seem to have much competition unless Mika Zibanejad improves by leaps and bounds.
Durability was somewhat of a question mark for Legwand in the earlier part of his career, but he has managed to remain healthy over the past three seasons, having missed just four games during that time.
In fact, Legwand played more regular-season games than any player in the NHL this past season due to the way the schedules fell following his trade, per Stan Nieradka of Hockey Night in Canada:
If Legwand is able to carry that over and stay mostly healthy throughout the season, then he has a chance to be a very productive player in Ottawa. Legwand is usually good for anywhere from 40 to 50 points in a season, which is roughly around where he should fall during the upcoming campaign.
How many points will Legwand score during the 2014-15 season?
Legwand played a top-six role during his time with the Preds last season and ended up with some solid stats at the end of the season. With that in mind, totals of 15 goals and 30 assists for 45 points are very much in reach.
He isn't a player who is going to score 30 goals or be a first-line center, but he is a solid second-line player and excellent third-line player who figures to be well worth his contract.
Legwand is essentially a gun for hire at this juncture of his career, and it will be interesting to see how he fares with a new beginning.
The Senators will have to get much better in order to be a playoff team in 2014-15. The addition of Legwand probably isn't enough to get them there with Spezza out the door, but Legwand is likely to have a typical season from a personal perspective.
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