AHL’s goaltender of the year in 2008 will join Carolina on two-year, one-way contract
RALEIGH, NC—Ron Francis, Assistant General Manager and Director of Player Development for the National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes, today announced that the team has signed goaltender Michael Leighton to a two-year contract. The deal will pay Leighton $600,000 per season in 2008-09 and 2009-10.
“Michael had an outstanding year with Albany last season, and also handled himself well during his time on the NHL level,” said Francis. “He has earned a role on our team going forward and we feel confident in our goaltending situation with him and Cam Ward between the pipes.”
Leighton, 27, completed his seventh season of professional hockey in 2007-08, spending most of the season with the Hurricanes’ top minor-league affiliate, the Albany River Rats of the American Hockey League (AHL). He appeared in three games with Carolina, registering a 1-1 record with a 2.66 goals-against average on the NHL level. Leighton (6’3’’, 186 lbs.) was 28-25-4 in 59 regular-season games for the River Rats, with a 2.10 goals-against average and seven shutouts. The Petrolia, Ont., native led the AHL in saves (1,634), save percentage (.931) and shutouts (7), and ranked second in the league in minutes played (3,451) and tied for second in goals-against average (2.10). He set Albany franchise regular-season and playoff records for shutouts, goals-against average and save percentage. At the conclusion of the AHL’s regular season, he was named the winner of the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award as the AHL’s outstanding goaltender for the 2007-08 season, as voted by AHL coaches, players and media. He was also named a First-Team AHL All-Star.
Leighton was heroic during Albany’s seven-game Calder Cup playoff series against Philadelphia, stopping 304 of 314 shots (.968 save percentage) and posting a 1.18 goals-against average and two shutouts. He made an AHL-record 98 saves during Game 5 against the Phantoms, as the two teams played the longest game in league history, a 3-2 Philadelphia win in five overtimes. He then helped Albany rebound by stopping all 40 shots he faced in a 1-0 overtime victory in Game 6, before the River Rats finally succumbed to the Phantoms in a 2-0 Game 7 loss at Philadelphia.
A sixth-round draft choice of the Chicago Blackhawks (165th overall) in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, Leighton has appeared in 50 career NHL games with Chicago, Nashville, Philadelphia and Carolina, earning an 11-24-10 record with a 3.01 goals-against average.
Leighton’s Albany Records
- Became the first River Rats goalie to record back-to-back shutouts in consecutive team games.
Set the longest individual shutout streak in team history, 165:37, which was also a new Albany team record. (The previous River Rats record, set by the 2004-05 team, was the combined effort of two goaltenders, while Leighton was the only goaltender in between the pipes for the new record achievement)
Became first River Rat to be named Rbk/AHL Player of the Week award since the 2004-05 season.
Helped Albany set a new single-season team record of nine shutouts in one year.
Named as the starting goaltender for the Canadian All-Star Team of the 2008 AHL All-Star Classic in Binghamton, NY. First Albany goaltender to be named as an All-Star Game starter, and first goaltender participant since Peter Sidorkiewicz in 1997 All-Star Classic in St. John, New Brunswick.
Named to the AHL First All-Star Team, the first goaltender in River Rats history to do so, the sixth Albany player overall and the first Rats player since Ray Giroux in the 2002-03 season to be selected for the AHL First All-Star Team.
The winner of the Aldege "Baz" Bastien Memorial Award as the AHL's outstanding goaltender for the 2007-08 season, as voted by AHL coaches, players and members of the media. The first goaltender in Albany’s 15-year history to win this award…his 4th AHL award of the 2007-08 season.Single-Season Albany Franchise Records
Save % (0.931)
New Albany Single-Playoff Records
*Saves in 1 game (98)
Save PCT. (0.968)
Most career playoff shutouts (2 - tied with Mike Dunham).
*NEW AHL RECORD
2007-08 Regular Season AHL Rankings
1st – Saves (1,634)
1st – Save Pct. (0.931)
1st – Shutouts (7)
2nd – Minutes (1,634)
T-2nd – GAA (2.10)
4th – Wins (28)
2008 Calder Cup Playoff Rankings
1st – Save Pct. (0.968)
1st. – GAA (1.18)
T-1st – Shutouts (2)