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LaFontaine signs with the Canes

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LaFontaine, Division I goalie of year, signs contract with Hurricanes

Agrees to leave University of Minnesota, 'opportunity is very golden and the timing is right'

NHL.com @NHLdotcom
 January 10, 2022

Jack LaFontaine signed a one-year, entry-level contract with the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday. He will be paid $750,000 at the NHL level and $70,000 at the American Hockey League level through the end of this season.


The goalie was assigned to the taxi squad Monday and is expected to practice with the Hurricanes on Wednesday.


LaFontaine, a third-round pick (No. 75) by Carolina at the 2016 NHL Draft, is turning pro in the middle of the college hockey season with the University of Minnesota. The 24-year-old was 12-8-0 with a 2.69 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage in 20 games.


"The opportunity is very golden and the timing is right," LaFontaine said Monday. "Obviously it was a difficult decision to leave my teammates at Minnesota. These opportunities don't come along very often. I knew in my heart of hearts that it was time to make the next move.


"This opportunity is special in the sense that I've been working toward the goal of playing in the NHL since about the age of 7. All of my actions, all of my sacrifices, all of my work has been for the common goal of playing in the NHL.


Now it's time to come and work even harder, do what I know I can do, and help this team in any way I can to keep them on the path to the Stanley Cup."


The Hurricanes play the Columbus Blue Jackets at PNC Arena on Wednesday.


"We think he's one of the best goalies around in that amateur level," coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "We've got to see what we get in him. ...


I think he understands that you've got to come play well. You've got to earn your spot. It's just an opportunity to see what he's all about and for him to get a taste of what he's dreamed about his whole life. It will be interesting to see how it all works out."


LaFontaine said Hurricanes goaltending development coach Jason Muzzatti spoke to him Saturday about the possibility of signing.


"It was something I made a decision on in the span of 20 hours," he said. "Looking at it through a hockey lens and a life lens, I felt really good about it and I feel really good about my game right now. I feel like I can contribute to the team in any way I can."


Last season LaFontaine he won the Mike Richter Award voted as the top goalie in NCAA Division I after going 22-7-0 with a 1.79 GAA, .934 save percentage and five shutouts in 29 games. He led Division I goalies in wins and was tied for second in save percentage and shutouts.


LaFontaine was also named Big Ten Goaltender of the Year, Big Ten Tournament Most Outstanding Player, a First-Team All-American and a top-10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, given annually to the top player in college hockey.


"I was drafted as an 18-year-old and here I am six years later as a 24-year-old, more mature, more understanding of the demands of the position," he said. "I think that's all you can ask of your goaltender, is to understand the demands mentally and emotionally."


LaFontaine may not have to wait long to make his NHL debut.


Hurricanes goalie Antti Raanta was scratched for a 4-3 overtime loss to the Florida Panthers on Saturday because of an upper-body injury. Alex Lyon was recalled from the taxi squad and made 32 saves. Frederik Andersen made 36 saves in a 6-3 win against the Calgary Flames on Friday.


Goalie prospects Eetu Makiniemi (Chicago, American Hockey League) and Beck Warm (Norfolk, ECHL) each is injured.


"We all felt he was ready for this next step," Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell said. "We think we are a serious contender. The last thing we want to do is get caught short in goal."


LaFontaine played 96 collegiate games with Minnesota (2019-22) and the University of Michigan (2016-18). He had a 2.52 GAA, a .915 save percentage and five shutouts.


"We would like to thank Jack for his contributions to the Gophers program, and we wish him well as he begins his professional career," Minnesota coach Bob Motzko said in a statement issued by the university Sunday.

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