Brian MacLellan has said the Caps intend to upgrade their third line this offseason. This is part of our series looking at free agents who the Caps may target.
David Legwand in 2016 should not be confused with the David Legwand of seasons past. In his prime, Legwand was a fast-skating, offensively talented two-way center. Now, he’s best known for his veteran leadership–a trait that won’t necessarily improve the Caps’ third line.
Courtesy of Own the Puck
A former second-overall draft pick of the Nashville Predators, Legwand spent his 2015-16 season with the Buffalo Sabres. In 79 games, he put up just 14 points–a substantial decline from his production in 2014-15, which saw him notch 27 points in 80 games. Is there reason to believe this downward trend will continue? Absolutely. Legwand will turn 36 in August and has experienced a dramatic dropoff in his production in the past two seasons. Gone are the days of 40- or 50-point seasons; Legwand’s production will more than likely continue to decline as he ages. If the Caps were to sign Legwand, going from Buffalo to Washington would be a greater upgrade for the player rather than for the team.
With this in mind, why would the Caps be interested in signing him?
Age has begun to rob Legwand of his offensive skills, and we should expect his speed to diminish as well. However, Legwand’s fast skating hasn’t deteriorated to nearly the same extent as his offensive ability. It should be noted that skating fast does not equate to playing fast–puck movement, positioning, and decision-making abilities are what the Caps really need from their third-liners, not a fast set of legs accompanied by limited hockey sense.
Additionally, Legwand brings his penalty-killing chops to the table, as he played an important role in resurrecting the Sabres’ penalty kill this season. But take a look at Legwand’s possession numbers, and you won’t like what you see–even when you consider that he played for the freaking Sabres.
Let’s now ask: Is Legwand fast enough to be a bona fide third-line player? Are his speed and defensive acumen enough to make up for his lack of offensive production? And is he worth the $3.5 million the Sabres paid for his services?
If we’ve learned anything from Brooks Orpik, it’s that overpaying an aging veteran for his locker-room leadership is not a wise decision. It’s hard to make a case for Legwand being a productive fourth-liner for the Caps–much less bolstering their third line.
Realistically, Legwand will probably need to take a large pay cut if he wants to stay in the NHL. Then again, a foolish team might take a chance and overpay him. That team shouldn’t be the Caps. But if they really want Legwand–which is difficult to imagine–they’ll probably get him. Would he be willing to go from making $3.5 million to $1 million to play for a serious Cup contender? After a season spent with the Sabres, and the Senators the season before that? More than likely. But just because he comes cheap doesn’t mean he’s a suitable suitor for the Caps’ third line
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