The first phone call Derek Lalonde made just minutes after being named the Toledo Walleye's new coach was to a goaltender he considered to be the perfect teammate and a winner.
On Wednesday, the organization announced the signing of ex-Michigan State University goalie Jeff Lerg. Lalonde, a former netminder, said shortly after the news conference announcing his hiring on June 2 he placed a call to Lerg.
“He is a winner of a kid,” Lalonde said. “He's the kind of guy we want to emulate in that locker room. He's a winner and an overachiever. He has won everywhere he has been. I was ecstatic to sign him. He will be an ultimate teammate.”
In 2006-07, Lerg helped lead Michigan State to the NCCA championship. He won 78 games over four seasons from 2005-09 with the Spartans, including a career-best 26 games during the 2006-07 season. Lerg finished his collegiate career with a 78-51-17 record and a 2.37 goals-against average.
Lerg spent the last three seasons playing overseas in Europe.
The native of Livonia, Mich. posted a goals-against average of 3.32 with a save percentage of .910 last season while between the pipes for Villard-de-Lans in France. He also was named the league’s top goaltender.
Lerg, 28, stands just 5-foot-6 and 165 pounds.
“He is so solid between the pipes, you know what you are getting from him each and every night,” Lalonde said.
Lerg made his pro debut in the ECHL with Trenton in 2009-10, playing in two games. The next season Lerg played in 27 games for the Devils and had a 12-12-1 record, a 3.15 GAA and a .903 SVP.
Lerg is expected to split time in net with a goalie that will be assigned to Toledo from the Detroit Red Wings organization.
“With Lerg on board we will have some stability at a key position on the ice,” Lalonde said.
“Jeff is a championship goaltender.”