General manager Paul Holmgren announced just shortly after noon on Monday that the Flyers have placed 29-year-old goaltender Michael Leighton on waivers.
“It’s something that we’ve thought about here over the last few days,” said Holmgren. “There’s really two reasons for doing this. One, it’s in the best interest of the Flyers at this time, and number two, it’s in the best interest of Michael. We need to get Michael playing at a higher level, and unfortunately when you have a goaltender situation like we have, it’s hard to do right now.”
Under conditions of being placed on waivers, any of the remaining teams in the NHL can claim him and would be responsible for paying his full salary with it counting against their salary cap.
|Leighton pictured above in his most recent start -- Dec. 30 vs. LA Kings, a 7-4 Flyers victory. |
Should the Flyers need to put him through re-entry waivers and activate him on their roster, teams could claim him and would only be on the hook for paying half of his salary, with the other half counting against the Flyers.
“Brian Boucher’s played extremely well right now, and so has Sergei Bobrovsky
,” added Holmgren. “We expect them to continue to play well, and we need to get Michael playing at the level he can play at. It’s unfortunate that it has to come to this, but I think Michael's understanding of it, and assuming he clears waivers, we’ll send him to the Phantoms tomorrow [Jan. 4].”
In order to report to Adirondack, Leighton must remain unclaimed within a 24-hour period.
“I think more than anything, he needs to get playing, said Holmgren. “Right now he’s probably in a training camp mode, and he needs to get up to speed in order to help our team. The only way he’s going to get doing that is by going down and playing on a more consistent basis than he was going to play here.”
The Flyers activated Leighton off of injured reserve on the night of Tues., Dec. 14, just one day short of his one-year anniversary of him being claimed by Philadelphia to help compensate for the injured Ray Emery.
Leighton appeared in one game with the Flyers, a 6-4 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Dec. 30 where he stopped 32 of 36 shots.
“I think at the end of the day, this is the best for the organization. We can keep all three of them playing, again assuming Michael clears waivers, and I think we’ll be stronger in the end because of it.”
|Michael Leighton credits much of his success with the close relationship he's developed with goaltending coach Jeff Reese. |
Unlike last year however, the Flyers have three fully healed and healthy goaltenders practicing at the moment.
“It’s very difficult with three goalies in a practice situation,” said Holmgren. “Somebody is always getting the [short] end of the stick. This is a better way of getting everybody involved and playing.”
Being waived however, doesn’t necessarily mean goodbye. That is simply the risk that team’s have to make especially now in the salary cap era.
“The first part of the risk is now with Michael on waivers, we might lose him,” said Holmgren. “The second part is, when we get to that point, is trying to get him through re-entry. So we’ll deal with the first part first, and then go from there. I think this gives everybody a chance to continue to work on their game and hopefully Brian can stay at the level he’s at and Sergei can continue to develop, and we can get Michael up to speed.”
Fans and the organization will now have to wait until high noon on Jan. 4 before we officially know if Michael Leighton is still Flyers property.
Should Leighton join the Phantoms, he would have a place he is somewhat familiar with recently.
He last saw action with the Phantoms as part of a four-game conditioning stint from Dec. 4-11, going 1-3-0 with a 2.78 goals-against average and .906 save percentage.
Originally a six-day conditioning assignment, Leighton was granted an extension on his conditioning stint on Dec. 6. He earned his first win in his third start by stopping 29 of 31 shots for a 5-2 victory over the Syracuse Crunch on Dec. 10.
It was Leighton’s first turn in net since his back surgery on Oct. 11.
An injury that had developed during the postseason hampered Leighton in training camp and preseason.
He appeared in two preseason games, including a full 65 minutes at Toronto on Sept. 24, but was replaced by Brian Boucher for the shootout (which the Flyers ended up winning by a 2-0 count) because of back pain he was experiencing with about five minutes left to play in regulation.
After a 1-0-0 record with a 3.64 GAA and .898 save percentage in just under 100 minutes of play, Leighton underwent a partial discectomy, a form of back surgery that sidelined him for approximately seven weeks.
|Leighton in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final vs. Chicago Blackhawks. |
Leighton joined the Flyers in a second tour of duty when he was claimed off of waivers in December of 2009.
He put up career numbers and played a key role in the Flyers mid-season turnaround, posting a 16-5-2 record with a 2.48 goals-against average and .918 save percentage in 27 appearances.
He made his NHL postseason debut when he entered in relief of Brian Boucher in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Semifinals vs. Boston and went on to record an 8-3 mark with a 2.46 GAA and .916 save percentage in 14 games.
During the Eastern Conference Final vs. Montreal, he set a Flyers franchise record by posting three shutouts in the series to help the Flyers capture their first Eastern Conference Championship since 1997.
Leighton earned himself a two-year contract extension for his play last season and during the Flyers’ run to the Stanley Cup Final this past June.