Michael Leighton's Time with Philadelphia Flyers Likely Over
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It came as a shock to some people when the 29-year-old Ontario native Michael Leighton was waived on January 3. General Manager Paul Holmgren had previously stated in other interviews that he would have no problem carrying three goalies, at least in the short term. When news broke Leighton was on the waiver wire, there was some confusion.
There was speculation that the New York Islanders may lay claim, with Dwayne Roloson being traded to Tampa Bay and Rick DiPietro sustaining an injury. Others were saying that Buffalo would put in a claim, but that never happened either. Since, Michael has not surprisingly cleared waivers. As of now, Michael Leighton's seemingly never-ending journey will take him to Adirondack.
Leighton came to a struggling Flyers team almost exactly one year ago, when he was picked up off of waivers from the Carolina Hurricanes. Ray Emery had fallen to injury, and since has not played in the NHL. Leighton went 16-5-2 with a 2.48 goals-against average after coming to the Flyers, not to mention three shutouts in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Montreal Canadiens.
There is no question that Leighton played an enormous role in the Flyers run to the Stanley Cup Finals last year, but even that doesn't guarantee you a job in the NHL these days. We are in a salary cap era, just take a look at New Jersey this year after signing Ilya Kovalchuk to a ridiculously overpriced, lengthy contract. Nevertheless, the Flyers awarded Leighton a new contact in the offseason at two years, $3.1 million.
What mostly sealed Leighton's fate as a Flyer was the emergence of rookie goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. The 22-year-old Russian has raised many eyebrows with his speed and athletic ability, which almost trumps Leighton's. Even Philadelphia legend Bernie Parent had great things to say about the rookie goalie, courtesy of NHL.com:
"He's a very good goalie," Parent said of Bobrovsky. "People talk about his quickness, which he has. His right-to-left, left-to-right movement is awesome. But there's more to that when you play as well as he does. He has the understanding of the game and I always focus on the understanding of the game.
"Once you understand something, and if you have that natural talent, it's easier to get better and that's what he does. You watch him play, and whether a guy is a right- or left-handed shot, he positions himself and it's very interesting to see a 22-year-old kid do this."
Another reason for this move is without a doubt the recent play of Brian Boucher, who has been more then a capable back up goaltender in the past two months. Boucher has accepted his role with the Flyers the best any player could, and he has always been a class act.
Boucher has been known to be streaky throughout his many stints with the Flyers, but he loves being in Philadelphia and he more than deserves a spot on this Flyers roster.
With Leighton clearing waivers, he will be sent to the Adirondack Phantoms, where he will once again be in a goalie log-jam, as he battles for a spot with Brian Stewart, who is currently on fire, and Johan Backlund.
Leighton's time with the Flyers organization looks as if it is coming to a close, as he will almost certainly be picked up by a struggling club on re-entry waivers at half his salary. Michael was seen visibly upset, packing his bags at the Flyers practice facility in Voorhees, NJ during practice on January 4.
Whatever happens to Leighton, I wish him the best. On behalf of Philadelphia Sports fans everywhere, thank you for your time. Flyers fans will never forget the memorable run the the Cup without remembering you, whether they are good memories or bad ones.
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