Saturday, June 5, 2010

Leighton To Tampa Bay? I'll Start That Rumor!

Okay, so the Philadelphia Flyers have an unusual situation on their hands. They are playing in the Stanley Cup Final, and they have publically acknowledged that the guy who is starting in goal for them has no place in the team's future plans.

Interesting league, isn't it?

Well, it's a strange spot for the team. They have two okay goalies: Michael Leighton, who has been Mister Journeyman for his whole career, and Brian Boucher, who is pretty much a career backup. And a spotty one at that.

Somehow, sometimes because of their goaltending and sometimes in spite of their goaltending, the Flyers have made the Final, and Leighton is the man for them. But he won't be back, because his contract is expiring. Boucher has one more year, and the Flyers want to go out and acquire a real, true, proper NHL starting goalie.

You know. The kind of guy that can get you to the Stanley Cup Final.

With spots for only two 'tenders, Leighton is out in the cold. That means he'll be an unrestricted free agent come July 1, 2010. And as the Flyers work their way back into the series (tied 2-2 as of this writing), you would have to think Leighton's dollar value is going up.

A lot of teams want to shore themselves up between the pipes this off-season, and that team I sometimes talk about, the Tampa Bay Lightning, is definitely one of them. They have Mike Smith signed for one more season, and Antero Niittymaki is probably going to depart as a free agent. The Bolts have buckets of goaltending prospects developing all over the world, but new GM Steve Yzerman has said he wants to open the season with two NHL goaltenders.

Question: Would Leighton fit?

Answer: Yes or no. If management believes Smith is still capable of being a starter, then Leighton could be a good fit as a backup. That was the idea last year with Niittymaki, and we ended up with a 1 and 1A situation, where eventually, through injuries, slumps and all sorts of other crap, Niitty was eventually seen as the go-to guy.

A repeat situation like that would not be ideal.

If the Bolts now see Smith as a backup and plan to sign a starter (unlikely given their cap situation, unless they really start to swing deals) Leighton is not a likely candidate. Even though he's in the Finals, I don't think anyone is pegging him as the next Terry Sawchuk. But I would prefer Leighton over some of the others available, such as the aging Marty Turco. The Bolts have had bad luck bringing in old goalies in the past: Bill Ranford, Sean Burke, and Olaf Kolzig all came to the Bay late in their careers and their contributions were negligible.

I'm okay with the team signing Leighton, as long as they don't over-pay. He and Smith could probably hold down the fort until one of the prospects is ready to carry the team. Maybe offer him two years at a million each, tops. But heck, I don't even know what he's asking. Maybe we could get him for $600,000.

I'll have to check with my capologist to see if we can swing it. Um, as soon as I hire Detroit's capologist.


  1. checking with your capologist. that is hilarious.

  2. The Flyers starting goalie was supposed to be Ray Emery until he went out with injuries. They actually have 4 goalies becoming UFA's this summer and only Boucher signed for next year. I think that Philly we re-sign Emery for another year and give him another shot next year.

    As for Leighton, I think he appears to be playing better because of the defense that is in front of him. The Flyers are compensating for Leighton in net and it makes him look like a better goalie than he actually is.

    I really can't see Yzerman wanting to have Smith as the primary and Leighton as backup, not if he wants to win games at least.