Jason Spezza is gone, so the Ottawa Senators needed a top centre. David Legwand needed a home a few days into free agency.
On Friday the Senators went about the process of replacing Spezza by signing Legwand to a $6-million, two-year contract. The 33-year-old cited filling that spot and playing for coach Paul MacLean as the reasons he chose Ottawa over some other teams.
Legwand does know he’s not a Spezza clone and won’t try to be.
“Obviously what Jason Spezza did in Ottawa was pretty remarkable,” Legwand said on a conference call. “He’s a point-a-game guy and a very rare offensive talent. I don’t think you’re going to fill his shoes, but I think you can go in there, do some things and maybe help the all-around game.”
Legwand played more than 900 NHL games over 15 seasons with the Nashville Predators before being traded at the deadline to the Detroit Red Wings. He had 51 points (14 goals and 37 assists) in 83 games in 2014-15, and 577 points in his career.
Spezza had 23 goals and 43 assists for 66 points in his only season as Senators captain. He asked for a trade and got his wish Tuesday with a trade to the Dallas Stars for right-winger Alex Chiasson, two prospects and a draft pick.
Legwand, who will count $3-million against the salary cap each season and make $2.5 million in the first year and then $3.5-million in the second, expects to fill in as the Senators’ second-line centre behind Kyle Turris. In a statement announcing the signing, general manager Bryan Murray didn’t promise that but complimented the different things Legwand can do.
“David is a good, veteran centre, a guy that skates pretty well, gets up and down the ice,” Murray said. “We just think the way things shook out for us that having an experienced centre that can be a decent faceoff man, be a good defensive player, get points, was very important at this time.”
Legwand, a Detroit native, reportedly drew interest from the Toronto Maple Leafs and others. MacLean made a difference in his decision-making.
“I just think he’s a great hockey person,” Legwand said. “He obviously won the coach of the year for a reason, and I think playing against him in Detroit I think he had a lot to do with a lot of their success there.”
MacLean was the Jack Adams Award winner in 2013 when the Senators overcame injuries to Spezza, defenceman Erik Karlsson and goaltender Craig Anderson to make the playoffs. They missed this past year after Daniel Alfredsson left to sign with the Red Wings.
Legwand believes the Senators, with Milan Michalek back on a $12-million, three-year contract, Bobby Ryan, Turris and Karlsson leading the offence, can contend for a playoff spot next season.
“That’s got to be your goal is to get into the dance,” Legwand said. “If you get in you never know what can happen.”
Also Friday the Senators signed restricted-free-agent defenceman Eric Gryba to a $2.5-million, two-year deal. He’ll count $1.25-million against the cap each year, making $1.2-million next season and $1.3-million after that.
Gryba, 26, had 11 points (2-9) in 57 games last season.
The Senators might not be done making moves, as Murray reiterated he was continuing to discuss a trade and added, “it’s just a matter of if we can get satisfaction both ways.”
“We probably will do something else but I do feel comfortable with the roster,” Murray said. “I think that if we have to add we will, but it looks like our young players that have been drafted by the organization and have developed within — we’ve got a couple of guys that are ready and if they get a chance I’m sure they’ll perform very well.”
There have been reports that Ottawa has had discussions with the Philadelphia Flyers about veteran forward Vincent Lecavalier. Friday’s signing reduces the likelihood of that, unless Lecavalier plays the wing or Legwand centres the third line.