Flyers' goalie decision looming; give us your spin

    LOS ANGELES _ The Flyers aren't holding Michael Leighton's sub-par Finals performance against him.

    They began negotiating with the goalie's agent, Mike Liut, in Los Angeles on Thursday. The draft will be held here at the Staples Center on Friday and Saturday.

    If the Flyers sign Leighton, there are no guarantees he will end up as their No. 1 goalie.

     Here are some possible options:

    * Jonathan Bernier, Los Angeles.
   The Kings are Flyers West, and the teams seem compatible. Los Angeles has former Flyer head coaches Terry Murray (head coach) and John Stevens (assistant) helping run things. The Kings also have two front-office executives _ general manager Dean Lombardi and assistant GM Ron Hextall _ making personnel decisions.
    But will they part with the soon-to-be-22 Bernier, who has just three NHL games under his belt but was sensational for AHL Manchester last season? Bernier had a 2.03 GAA and .936 save percentage, and he looks like a star in the making.
   The Kings would probably want high-scoring Jeff Carter, whom the Flyers are reluctant to deal. Would Carter for Bernier and a No. 1 pick get it done?


  * Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles.
    Quick, 24, was the Kings’ starter this season, but Bernier could make him expendable. A former third-round pick, he was 39-24-7 this season with a 2.54 goals-against average and .907 save percentage.
     * Cory Schneider, Vancouver.
     With Roberto Luongo signed through 2021-22, Schneider’s future is blocked and he will have many suitors. Flyers scouts are enamored with Schneider, 24, who has been an AHL standout.
     * Dan Ellis, Nashville.
     Ellis, 30, lost the starting job to Pekka Rinne and is on the verge of becoming an unrestricted free agent.
Ellis had a 2.69 GAA and .909 save percentage last season. Three years ago, his numbers were outstanding (2.34 GAA, .924 save percentage), and he had a .938 save percentage in six playoff games. He made $2 million last season, and he seems like a safe choice if the Flyers take the free-agent route and decide Ellis is an upgrade over Leighton.
    * Chris Mason, St. Louis.
    With the Blues’ stunning acquisition of Jaroslav Halak, Mason, 34, figures to be gone. Mason, who made $3 million last season, can become an unrestricted free agent, and he is coming off a year in which he was 30-22-8 with a 2.53 goals-against average and .913 save percentage.
     From here, Mason and Ellis look like upgrades over Leighton.

   * Josh Harding, Minnesota.
    At 26, Harding, now the backup to Niklas Backstrom, is young enough to blossom. But he had a sub-par season _ 9-12 with a 3.05 goals-against average and .905 save percentage _ and he is coming off April hip surgery.
According to a league source, the Flyers have only minimal interest in Harding, who had a sensational 19-game stint two seasons ago.
    Harding probbaly would only enter the picture if the Flyers couldn't re-sign Leighton.

   * Michael Leighton, Flyers.
    If Leighton hadn’t performed so poorly in the Finals, there wouldn’t be any goaltender suspense. But after a solid season and an outstanding playoff series against Montreal, he was pulled from two Finals games against Chicago. He compiled a 3.96 Finals goals-against average _ punctuated by a handful of soft goals _ and had a meager .876 save percentage.
    The Flyers are trying to sign him before he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
    Leighton had a combined 2.83 GAA and .905 save percentage with the Flyers and Carolina last season.
   “When you look at what’s out there,” said one NHL executive who wasn’t sure if Bernier would be available in a trade, “I don’t know if anyone is much better than Leighton.”
    Your take on it?

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       Potential free agents Evgeni Nabokov and Marty Turco are not on the above list because they are considered too expensive for the Flyers.

    Tim Thomas, whom Boston is trying to unload, is another goalie the Flyers will not pursue because of his salary, a club source said. Thomas, 36, has three years left on a contract that has $15 million remaining. The NHL does not allow a team trading a player to pay any part of his salary. 

   In other words, the Bruins are probably stuck with Thomas _ who is now their backup _ and his hefty contract.

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    The NHL Board of Governors approved a rule change that provides for a major penalty and a game misconduct for a “lateral or blindside hit to an opponent in which the head is targeted and/or the principle point of contact.” The rule change, proposed by the league’s 30 general managers, was approved by the Competition Committee before being ratified by the Board.

   The new rule also empowers a referee, at his discretion, to assess a match penalty if, in his judgment, the penalized player attempted to or deliberately injured his opponent with an illegal check to the head.

   Any player who incurs a total of two game misconducts under this rule, in either the regular season or playoffs, will be suspended automatically for his team’s next game. For each subsequent game misconduct penalty, the automatic suspension will be increased by one game.

   Supplementary discipline also can be applied.


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