BUFFALO – David Leggio has no hard feelings toward the Sabres.
Three summers ago, the goalie figured his championship season in Finland would generate interest back in North America. But offers never materialized. Finally, as the summer dragged on, the Sabres gave Leggio a chance when no one else would, signing him to play behind Jhonas Enroth with the Portland Pirates.
At that point, the 28-year-old Williamsville native had played three AHL games.
“They believed in me, and they were the first organization that believed in me,” Leggio said by phone Monday, shortly after the Washington Capitals announced his one-year, two-way deal. “I can’t thank them enough for giving me that shot and a super opportunity the last three years.”
Today, having posted elite numbers as the Rochester Americans’ starter the last two seasons, Leggio’s arguably the AHL’s best goalie.
But Leggio, the Amerks’ MVP, never received a promotion to his hometown team. When the Sabres acquired 23-year-old goaltending prospect Matt Hackett from Minnesota in March, the writing was on the wall.
“Right now, there’s a pretty full stable of goaltenders,” said Leggio, who went 38-24-1 with a 2.56 goals-against average and .924 save percentage in 64 games last season.
Enroth and Ryan Miller are still entrenched with the big club. In addition to Hackett, Russian prospect Andrey Makarov will likely be joining the Amerks. The Sabres also have draft choices Connor Knapp and Nathan Lieuwen in the system.
General manager Darcy Regier recently said Leggio could eventually be offered a contract, presumably if the Sabres trade Miller.
Naturally, Leggio feels some disappointment leaving the Sabres.
“My lifelong dream to this point was to play for the Buffalo Sabres,” Leggio said. “As a kid growing up in Buffalo, sitting in the oranges (in Memorial Auditorium), I wish that I had chance to put that jersey on. But that didn’t happen. But I’m very grateful for the opportunity that I had the last three years in the organization. They were so fun and exciting, working toward playing in Buffalo, playing in Rochester and Portland.
“My family and friends were able to support me and come to a lot of games. I kind of just felt a lot of support from the community pulling for me to spend time in Buffalo. It was a really, really exiting, fun time the last three years. I’ll miss all my ex-teammates and stuff like that. But (there are) no hard feelings at all.”
Leggio’s likely ticketed for the Hershey Bears, Washington’s powerhouse affiliate. The Bears average more than 10,000 fans a game and routinely field one of the AHL’s best clubs. Former Amerks and Sabres winger Derek Whitmore will be joining Leggio on the Bears.
“With Hershey, you have an organization that is known for being one of the best in the AHL year after year,” Leggio said.
Considering goaltending jobs are scarce – there are basically only 120 total in the NHL and AHL – Leggio considers himself lucky. Plenty of good ones can’t find work.
“Every year I look at guys, and I say, ‘Oh my God, look at those guys. They’re all just so talented,’” Leggio said. “I’m just grateful to have a job.”