A mere minutes after the clock struck noon and ended Michael Leighton’s run on the waiver wire, Leighton walked into the Flyers’ locker room at Voorhees and began packing his bags for Glens Falls, N.Y.
Leighton had hoped to stay in the NHL, perhaps with a claim from the injury-riddled New York Islanders.
That didn’t happen. All 29 teams passed on Leighton by Tuesday’s noon deadline, ending Leighton's magical run with the Flyers.
“The hardest part is once you think you have security in life, you sign a two year deal, and you come into camp thinking you’re a starting goalie,” Leighton said. “Going from that mindset, to being injured and working to get that spot back, to going to the minors ... It’s tough.
“It’s going to be tough on me and my family.”
Believe it or not, he will actually earn more money in the AHL as opposed to the NHL, considering he won’t have to pay a league-mandated escrow which is upwards of 15 percent of his salary.
“I just want to be in the NHL,” Leighton said. “I want to go down and work on my game and get back to where I should be. That’s all I can control. I want to get back here. I hope it happens.
“It’s tough to leave. I love all of these guys in the [locker] room, these guys become family. On the other hand, I’m not gone. I’m still part of the organization. I’ve got to work hard and try to get back.”
In a lot of ways, Leighton is gone from the organization - though Comcast-Spectacor will still cut his checks bi-weekly. He would be more than an attractive option for teams on re-entry waivers, since they would only be responsible for the rest of this year’s salary at half of his prorated amount (today close to $390,000) and half of his salary next season ($775,000).
Leighton could only blame his injury for the demotion - nothing else. Brian Boucher and Sergei Bobrovsky have played extremely well in net. If Leighton wasn’t hurt to start the season, Bobrovsky would likely be playing in Glens Falls today instead of him.
“I’m really disappointed,” Leighton said. “The only thing I’m disappointed in is myself and the fact that I got injured. There’s nothing I could do about that. Everyone keeps telling me that it’s not my fault for what happened. If one of these guys weren’t playing well, it would’ve made their decision a little easier. Both of these guys are playing well.
“I just haven’t played a lot.”
A lot was riding on Leighton’s first audition back in the NHL last Thursday in Los Angeles. Two shaky goals in the first 5 minutes could not have helped his plight.
And the Flyers made the choice on Monday that they weren’t willing to jeopardize any wins this season - by not having their other two goalies well-enough prepared - to wait for Leighton to get back in gear.
“I played four games [on rehab in the AHL] and then I took 3 weeks off,” Leighton explained. “To come back and have two practices and then play one game, it’s tough. Some shaky goals went in. Whether it’s the rest of the year or at least for the next little while.
“I guess it just had to happen.”
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