December 7 Philadelphia Daily News:
“ON SUNDAY in Atlantic City, Michael Leighton said he thought he was ready to return to the NHL.
Yesterday, Leighton met with Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren and goaltending coach Jeff Reese and left the meeting convinced that he is not 100 percent after October back surgery and needs more time to rehab.
As such, the Flyers asked for and received an extension from the NHL for Leighton to continue his conditioning assignment with the Phantoms for another two games. The move, from Holmgren’s perspective, is a smart one.
Why tinker with a roster when you don’t absolutely need to?
The Flyers entered last night’s action tied for the league lead in points. Even if he was completely healthy, after dropping both games with the Phantoms over the weekend while stopping just 87.5 percent of his shots faced, Leighton wasn’t going to earn any time in the near future over Sergei Bobrovsky.
“Rather than sticking him in with the Flyers, it’s a better option for us right now,” Holmgren said on a conference call with reporters. “In my opinion, he still needs work. I think Michael needs to play. He’s a big guy and he hasn’t really played a full game since September. I think to get him a couple more games it’s going to be better for him and better for us.”
“Better for us” are the key words there. Leighton said yesterday he could “in a way, come back right now.” Leighton is taking one for the team.
For Holmgren, two more games – and it can only be two more games as it is a one-time exception, as part of the collective bargaining agreement – will buy him a little more time to creatively tweak the salary cap. The one-time exception was designed to stop teams from stalling with cap decisions.
In reality, the Flyers could deem Leighton unhealthy for assignment and keep him on the long-term injured reserve list for the rest of the season. He doesn’t actually need to come off LTIR if the Flyers say – and their doctors agree – that he isn’t healthy.
There are other options. Holmgren could move forward Ian Laperriere’s salary to the LTIR, since he is not expected to play this season. The GM could waive or trade defenseman Matt Walker, who is still recovering after October hip surgery, once he is healthy enough. Or the Flyers could move forwards Dan Carcillo or Nik Zherdev. Both players have been on the fringe of the lineup, and Carcillo just returned from an MCL sprain last Friday. According to CapGeek.com, the Flyers have less than $550,000 in cap space.”
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