Flyers sign Leighton but goalie search isn't over

Posted: July 01, 2010

TODAY'S DATE is always circled on Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren's calendar. The opening of free agency, July 1, is like Christmas for NHL general managers.

Much of the fun and suspense were taken out of it yesterday when the Flyers announced that goaltender Michael Leighton signed a 2-year contract extension before reaching free agency.

"We are pleased to have Michael under contract for the next two seasons," Holm-gren said in a statement. "Michael came to our team in December last year and played extremely well for us in the regular season and the playoffs. Michael is an athletic goalie who we feel is just coming into his own as an NHL goaltender and we look forward to Michael building on the level of play he established this past season."

According to Rogers SportsNet in Canada, Leighton will earn $1.5 million this season and $1.6 million next season - a big hike from the $600,000 he earned last season as a waiver-wire claim from Carolina in December.

"I'm very excited for the opportunity to come back to the Flyers organization for 2 more years," Leighton said in a statement. "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."

While the Flyers have committed $3.1 million to Leighton over the next two seasons, they have not guaranteed him a role as their starting goaltender. Multiple league sources confirmed to the Daily News yesterday the Flyers will still try to pluck one of the many available free-agent goalies off the market today - and if they don't succeed, they will head into next season with Leighton as their man between the pipes and Brian Boucher as the backup.

With five viable options at center, about the only thing we know heading into the first day of free agency is that Holmgren will not go after any centers. With 11 forwards, four defensemen, Leighton and Boucher, Holmgren has about $9.1 million in cap room. Here are four possible targets who could jump ahead of Leighton on the depth chart:

EVGENI NABOKOV

Last team: San Jose

Age: 34

NHL experience: 10 years

Last salary-cap hit: $5.375 million

2009-10 stats: 44-16-10, 2.43 GAA, .922 save percentage

Likely asking price: $4.5 million

Question mark: Lack of playoff success

CHRIS MASON

Last team: St. Louis

Age: 34

NHL experience: 6 years

Last salary-cap hit: $3 million

2009-10 stats: 30-22-8, 2.53 GAA, .913 save percentage

Likely asking price: $3 million

Question mark: His night-in, night-out performance

MARTY TURCO

Last team: Dallas

Age: 34

NHL experience: 9 years

Last salary-cap hit: $5.7 million

2009-10 stats: 22-20-11, 2.72 GAA, .913 save percentage

Likely asking price: $4 million

Question mark: How much gas is left in the tank?

DAN ELLIS*

Last team: Nashville

Age: 30

NHL experience: 3 years

Last salary-cap hit: $1.75 million

2009-10 stats: 15-13-1, 2.69 GAA, .909 save percentage

Likely asking price: $1.5 million

Question mark: Not the lone starter, but a good tandem goalie.

*Ellis' rights were acquired by Montreal on Tuesday, but he needed to come to an agreement with the Canadiens by noon today before being available to all 30 teams.

Defensively, the Flyers' biggest concern is signing restricted free agent Braydon Coburn to a new deal. Coburn will be due a big raise from the $1.3 million he earned last season. If the Flyers are going to stick with Leighton, they could spend big money on a free-agent defenseman. If they spend on a goaltender, besides having the option to bring back unrestricted free agents Lukas Krajicek and Danny Syvret, the Flyers could go in a smaller budget direction. Here are the big and small options:

DAN HAMHUIS

Last team: Nashville

Age: 27

NHL experience: 6 years

Last salary-cap hit: $2 million

2009-10 stats: 5 goals, 19 assists, 24 points, plus-4 rating

Likely asking price: $4.5 million

SERGEI GONCHAR

Last team: Pittsburgh

Age: 36

NHL experience: 15 years

Last salary-cap hit: $5 million

2009-10 stats: 11 goals, 39 assists, 50 points, minus-4 rating

Likely asking price: $6 million

ZYBNEK MICHALEK

Last team: Phoenix

Age: 27

NHL experience: 6 years

Last salary-cap hit: $1.25 million

2009-10 stats: 3 goals, 14 assists, 17 points, plus-5 rating

Likely asking price: $2.25 million

JORDAN LEOPOLD

Last team: Florida

Age: 29

NHL experience: 7 years

Last salary-cap hit: $1.75 million

2009-10 stats: 7 goals, 11 assists, 18 points, minus-7 rating

Likely asking price: $2 million

Other defensive bargain possibilities: Mike Mottau, Kurtis Foster, Jay McKee, Brett Lebda

Depending on what's left in the budget, the Flyers would like to add another winger or two, preferably someone with size. The names that could be included in that discussion are Marek Svatos, Miroslav Satan, Jonathan Cheechoo, Jon Sim, Matt Ellis or Glen Metropolit. Before signing any of them, the Flyers would be more likely to bring back Arron Asham and restricted free agents Dan Carcillo and Darroll Powe. *

For more news and analysis, read Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at

http://go.philly.com/frequentflyers.

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