Instead, with the options for a veteran free-agent backup dwindling, the Flyers re-signed Leighton to a 1-year deal worth $900,000 on Sunday. Marty Biron (Rangers) and Scott Clemmensen (Panthers) never even hit the open market.
Leighton, 31, spent nearly the entirety of his previous 2-year, $3.1 million deal with the Phantoms after that recurring nightmare of a goal he surrendered to Patrick Kane in overtime of Game 6 of the 2010 Stanley Cup finals at the Wells Fargo Center.
He appeared in one regular-season game and was a puppet in Peter Laviolette's playoff circus in 2011 against Buffalo. Leighton did not win any favor among his teammates when he was yanked as the Game 6 starter of that first-round series after allowing three goals in the first period and claiming to have been suffering from an unannounced hip injury.
After Bryzgalov was acquired last summer, Leighton was not summoned from the Phantoms — even when Bryzgalov was injured in March.
"Even the last 2 years, I've gotten a lot of support from the Flyers' organization," Leighton said. "I was speaking to them frequently and they were letting me know that they still liked me and they were still interested in me. That's a good feeling, and it would have been a lot different if I would have went down there and never heard from them."
Leighton made his case for a return to the big leagues with an All-Star season in the AHL. He posted a .918 save percentage and 2.58 goals against-average in 56 appearances with Adirondack.
With the Flyers, Leighton was 17-5-2 in the regular season with a 2.54 goals against-average and .910 save percentage. Leighton harbors no ill will toward the Flyers for being buried in the minors after signing the biggest deal of his career and he says he is "already'' friends with Bryzgalov.
“I think the last two seasons, I was put in a spot because of injuries," Leighton said. "I understand what [Paul Holmgren] did and why he had to do it. It was obviously tough for me."
Most importantly, Leighton said allowing Kane's Cup-clincher to sneak through his five-hole — which he still thinks about often — has motivated him to be better.
"I'm sure it's going to be on my mind the rest of my life," Leighton said. "It's not something that's going to go away. But in a way I think it's helped me. It's made me change a few things about my game and make sure that it doesn't happen again. There's a lot of fans that are still sour about it, and obviously I'm not happy about the way things went either, but what happened happened, and I have to move on in my life, and this is a good step for me."