July 1 Philadelphia Inquirer
“The Flyers showed Wednesday they weren’t giving lip service when they said Michael Leighton should not be judged on the soft overtime goal he allowed that enabled the Chicago Blackhawks to win the Stanley Cup in Game 6.
They signed the 29-year-old goalie to a two-year deal for $3.1 million, according to an NHL source. Leighton was outstanding in the regular season and the playoffs – until the Stanley Cup Finals.
“Michael is an athletic goalie who we feel is just coming into his own as an NHL goaltender,” general manager Paul Holmgren said, “and we look forward to Michael building on the level of play he established this past season.”
Leighton, who signed one day before he would have become an unrestricted free agent, is not necessarily going to be the team’s No. 1 goaltender.
A source close to the situation said Holmgren would be open to talks with unrestricted free-agent goalies Evgeni Nabokov and Marty Turco, among others.
“There may be a limited opportunity to sign them,” the source said, “and Paul will explore everything.”
The free-agency period starts Thursday.
After being granted permission to talk with the agents for Nabokov and Turco in the last week, the Flyers had uneventful conversations.
Another source said the Flyers plan to talk with the agents for free-agent goalies Dan Ellis, whose rights are owned by Montreal, and Chris Mason, formerly of St. Louis.
After being claimed off reentry waivers from Carolina on Dec. 15, Leighton rescued the Flyers’ season. He went 16-5-2 with a 2.48 goals-against average and .918 save percentage with the Flyers.
In the Eastern Conference semifinals, Leighton returned from an ankle injury and played the final 21/2 games of the Flyers’ historic comeback against Boston, when they rallied from a three-games-to-none deficit. Then he posted three shutouts – a club playoff record for a series – as the Flyers ousted Montreal from the conference finals in five games.
Leighton struggled in the Stanley Cup Finals, becoming the first goalie since 1991 to be pulled from two Finals games. He finished the series with a 3.96 goals-against average and an .876 save percentage, and he surrendered soft goals to Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane in the decisive Game 6.”
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