On Monday morning, the Philadelphia Flyers placed goaltender Michael Leighton on waivers.
Leighton, who was the Flyers’ starting netminder in the Stanley Cup Finals in Chicago, has been injured this season and rookie Sergei Bobrovsky has claimed the starting job between the pipes in Philly.
This presents an intriguing option for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Leighton was originally drafted by the Blackhawks in the sixth round (165th overall) in 1999, but only saw limited action in Chicago before moving on. After bouncing around the league, he found a home with the Flyers and was superb during the 2010 playoffs.
Philadelphia GM Paul Holmgren has indicated that he has been shopping Leighton, but has not received much interest. This shouldn’t surprise many people because the Flyers have three goaltenders on their roster – Leighton, Bobrovsky and Brian Boucher – and it’s hard to receive much for an expendable asset.
If Leighton reaches re-entry waivers, the Blackhawks should consider bring him back to Chicago.
A move to bring Leighton back to Chicago is not a shot at the performances of Corey Crawford or Marty Turco, both of whom have performed admirably this season. But it makes a lot of sense now and in the immediate future for the Hawks to make this move.
First, it would make Turco an asset that GM Stan Bowman could put on the trade market. Considering his cap number ($1.3M), a number of teams looking to rent a netminder for the rest of the season could view him as a marketable piece. Yes, Philadelphia has three goalies and is struggling to move Leighton, but that’s because he has one more full season at over $1.5M on his contract; renting Turco makes sense for a team struggling with an injury (Toronto) or that needs a veteran for little cost (Washington).
Secondly, the claim would split Leighton’s cap number between Chicago and Philadelphia. This means the Blackhawks would only be responsible for half of the remainder of Leighton’s cap hit for the rest of 2010-11 and all of next year; that cap number would be $775,000, which would be a great price for a veteran backup with Stanley Cup Finals experience next year.
With the remainder of this season in mind, cutting over $500k off the cost of the second goalie on the roster would allow the Blackhawks financial flexibility to add an upgrade from either Rockford or via trade.
The bigger impact of making this move would come next season, though.
Right now, the Blackhawks have some serious decisions to make about their future, specifically with defenseman Brent Seabrook. Bowman will have to work on new deals with restricted free agents like Crawford and Troy Brouwer as well, so establishing costs for known commodities – like a backup goalie – becomes important. Having one locked in at under $800k would free up more money to spend on Seabrook and Crawford.
There would certainly need to be solid assurances that Leighton is healthy for the Blackhawks to add him, and there would be dominoes that would have to be in place (read: at least established interest in Turco) for Bowman to consider making this move. But it could be a key move to open up other options for the Blackhawks.