Flyers sign goalie Leighton

Posted: June 30, 2010

The Flyers showed Wednesday they weren't giving lip service when they said Michael Leighton should not be judged on the soft overtime goal he allowed that enabled the Chicago Blackhawks to win the Stanley Cup in Game 6.

They signed the 29-year-old goalie to a two-year deal for $3.1 million, an NHL source said. Leighton was outstanding in the regular season and the playoffs - until the Finals.

"Michael is an athletic goalie who we feel is just coming into his own as an NHL goaltender," general manager Paul Holmgren said, "and we look forward to Michael building on the level of play he established this past season."

Leighton, who signed one day before he would have become an unrestricted free agent, is not necessarily going to be the team's No. 1 goaltender.

A source close to the situation said Holmgren will be "open" to talks with unrestricted free-agent goalies Evgeni Nabokov and Marty Turco, among others.

"There may be a limited opportunity to sign them," the source said, "and Paul will explore everything."

The free-agency period starts Thursday.

During this week, after being granted permission to talk with the agents for Nabokov and Turco, the Flyers had uneventful conversations.

Another source said the Flyers also plan to talk with the agents for free-agent goalies Dan Ellis and Chris Mason.

After being claimed off re-entry waivers from Carolina on Dec. 15, Leighton rescued the Flyers' season. He went 16-5-2 with a 2.48 goals-against average and .918 save percentage with the Flyers.

In the Eastern Conference semifinals, he returned from an ankle injury and played the final 2 1/2 games of the Flyers' historic comeback from a 3-0 series deficit against Boston. Leighton then had three shutouts - a club playoff record for a series - and a 1.41 goals-against average and .950 save percentage as the Flyers ousted Montreal, four games to one, in the conference finals.

Leighton struggled in the Stanley Cup Finals, becoming the first goalie to be pulled from two Finals games since 1991. He finished the Finals with a 3.96 goals-against average and an .876 save percentage, and he surrendered soft goals to Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane in the decisive Game 6.

But in the end, the Flyers viewed Leighton's overall body of work.

"I'm very excited for the opportunity to come back to the Flyers' organization for two more years," Leighton said. "It was my intention all along. This is what I wanted. I really enjoy playing here, my teammates, the organization, and the fans are so passionate. I just think it is a good fit for me."

In free agency, the Flyers will try to bolster their defense and perhaps add a winger.

Free-agent defensemen include Dan Hamhuis, Anton Volchenkov and Paul Martin - three pricey players - along with less-expensive options such as Zbynek Michalek, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Kurtis Foster and Shaone Morrisonn. The Flyers could also decide to re-sign Lukas Krajicek.

The Flyers acquired Hamhuis' rights from Nashville recently, then traded them to Pittsburgh when they couldn't sign him.

"We'd like to add a player of that caliber to our defense," a club source said.

The Flyers are about $9 million under the new $59.4 million cap, but that number will be greatly reduced when (if) they re-sign restricted free agents Braydon Coburn, Dan Carcillo and Darroll Powe.

All three were given qualifying offers about two weeks ago and have until July 15 to respond.

A Flyers official said the team was "encouraged" by the progress made in talks with Coburn's agent.

Holmgren is unsure if he will re-sign third-line right winger Arron Asham, an unrestricted free agent who provided toughness and 10 goals last season and was a quality playoff performer with four goals and three assists.

Free-agent wingers who could interest the Flyers include Coby Armstrong, Maxim Afinogenov, Raffi Torres and Ray Whitney. Matt Cullen, a center who would move to wing, is also on the Flyers' radar.


Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi at 215-854-5181 or scarchidi@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BroadStBull.

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