Hurricanes sign Minnesota goaltender Jack LaFontaine
Update at 6:16 p.m. with the Hurricanes confirming the signing. Updated at 6:35 p.m. with comments from General Manager Don Waddell.
Jack LaFontaine was in goal for the University of Minnesota in a 6-3 victory at Michigan State on Saturday night. A day later, the 2016 third-round pick turned pro and signed with the Carolina Hurricanes.
Facing a flurry of system-wide goalie injuries, with Antti Raanta being knocked out late in the game on Saturday with an upper-body injury and AHL goalkeepers Eetu Makeniemi and Beck Warm both injured , the Hurricanes opted for an unusual solution on Sunday: the signing of the mid-season start. goaltender for an NCAA Top 10 team in the middle of the college season.
Originally from Ontario, he will train with the Hurricanes while awaiting a work visa, but Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell hasn’t ruled out LaFontaine making his NHL debut anytime soon, especially if Raanta stays. absent.
“We’re going to play it by ear and see how things go here with the goalie situation,” Waddell told News & Observer. “We really want to give him a chance. He’ll be a restricted free agent at the end of the year, so we need to find out what we have here. The good thing is we’re high on him.
LaFontaine, 24, started his career in Michigan before transferring to Minnesota, playing a year of junior hockey in between. He won the Mike Richter Award last season as the best goalie in college hockey and was a Hobey Baker finalist as the Gophers won the Big Ten Championship before losing in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
The Hurricanes tried to sign him over the summer, but LaFontaine decided to return to Minnesota for a fifth year of eligibility, and the Ontario native started all 20 games for the No.8 Gophers, with a 12-8 record with a total of 2.69 goals against. average and .900 percent savings. Last season he was 22-7 with a 1.79 GAA and .934 save percentage.
LaFontaine signed a one-year deal that will net him $ 750,000 in the NHL and $ 70,000 in the AHL, with a signing bonus of $ 88,500. With the Hurricanes above the salary cap, the deal was structured to keep his average salary below $ 1 million, making him eligible for a COVID emergency recall.
Meanwhile, the Hurricanes fought for bodies in the net in the NHL and AHL. Alex Lyon, called up by the Hurricanes’ COVID taxi team on Saturday, stopped 33 shots in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Florida Panthers. Frederik Andersen, who had some big action on Friday, would likely be back in net on Tuesday against the Philadelphia Flyers. Raanta’s availability remains uncertain, however.
“We have some concerns with his injury,” Waddell said. “There is no timetable. He could be back this week, he could be back next week, he could be out for longer. And Lyon did a good job for us. But it’s a unique year with COVID. If we ever lose Raanta or Andersen in the long run, we could be really shorthanded. This sort of thing fell on our knees at the right time.
Waddell said the Hurricanes will keep three goalies with the NHL team the rest of the way as a precaution.
Raanta’s sudden unavailability put even greater pressure on an organization that no longer had contracted goalkeepers. The AHL Chicago Wolves currently have six goalies in their roster, four of them on trial contracts. Their two goalies on Sunday against the Cleveland Monsters were recent recalls from the Toledo Walleyes and ECHL Tulsa Oilers, with a total of one AHL experience game between them on Saturday night.
This story was originally published January 9, 2022 5:42 pm.