Who will be Flyers' No. 1 goalie next season?

Flyers goalie Michael Leighton will become unrestricted free agent July 1.
Flyers goalie Michael Leighton will become unrestricted free agent July 1.
Posted: June 12, 2010

For exactly 40 minutes, Johan Backlund was the Flyers' starting goaltender.

And it was an injury, one that he sustained and not someone else, that required the Flyers to make a change in goal.

After Michael Leighton went down with a severe high ankle sprain on March 16, Brian Boucher was less than stellar for the Flyers in net, posting a 1-3-1 record.

So Peter Laviolette called on Backlund, an untested rookie from Finland, to start for the Flyers in Pittsburgh on March 27, in what was the Flyers' final game ever at Mellon Arena. Backlund gave the Flyers a chance to win, stopping 22 of 24 shots, before leaving after two periods with a groin strain that hampered him for much of his first season in North America.

"It was tough luck when I got hurt there," Backlund said. "I didn't have the chance to show that I could play here. It was disappointing."

Backlund, 28, will get a chance to show himself in training camp in September. Scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, Backlund is close to an agreement on a 2-year contract.

"I would love to try to take a spot over here," Backlund said. "I learned to play over here. It's been totally different. I think I learned to play this style, I heard how it was before, but it was hard to experience it without trying it."

Before Backlund - the Flyers' playoff backup until Leighton returned for Game 5 in the second round against Boston - can try it again, he will likely need to undergo hip surgery this summer.

"It's the same problem that I've had before; they think it's all related," he said. "It's been feeling pretty good recently. They're just going to examine it to see if there is something that has to be done."

Backlund and Boucher are the Flyers' goalies under contract with pro experience. Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said he will talk with Leighton's agent before July 1, when he becomes a free agent, to negotiate a possible contract.

Leighton was 16-5-2 in the regular season with a 2.48 goals against average and .918 save percentage. In the playoffs, he was 8-3 with a 2.46 goals against average and .916 save percentage.

The Flyers also could be considering a trade to acquire a younger, franchise-type goaltender around the time of the draft, which begins June 25.

"We're going through a careful evaluation process," Holmgren said. "We need to be careful no matter how we do it. I haven't seen the replay of the goal yet, maybe by design, but I think it's unfair to view Michael in that light."

Leighton could have cost himself a few million dollars with Patrick Kane's mind-boggling, Stanley Cup-clinching goal.

"Whatever happened, happened," Leighton said. "I've got to live with it the rest of my life. It's not like I can hide from it."

Leighton said he was not sure if he would be more open to waiting until July 1 to talk shop, when he can also listen to other offers from around the league. The Flyers have exclusive negotiating rights with Leighton and his agent, Mike Liut, until then.

Pronger responds

Just a few minutes after his team won the Stanley Cup, Chicago's Adam Burish called Chris Pronger the "biggest idiot in the league" and hoped aloud that he would "never have to see him again."

Not surprisingly, Pronger heard those unprovoked jabs from Burish , who said them in an on-camera interview, and fired back.

"I don't comment on people who aren't really around and just want 5 minutes of fame," Pronger said. "But I will say that if you're going to make a comment like that 5 minutes after you win the Stanley Cup, you've probably got better things to worry about."

Burish put on his equipment after the game and wet his hair just to celebrate with teammates on the ice after being a healthy scratch the last three games of the series.

"Did he play?" Pronger said. "Well, there you go."

One reporter reminded Pronger that Burish said he would punch Pronger if he saw him again. "Where's that?" Pronger asked. "In the minors?"

Checkmate! *

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