The Flyers had recalled Leighton from Adirondack of the American Hockey League on Tuesday, but had to wait 24 hours while the other 29 teams considered putting in a claim. Leighton would have been ineligible to play for another team in the postseason, but the claiming team only would have had half Leighton's remaining salary count against their salary cap. Leighton reportedly is due to make $1.6 million next season, the final season of the two-year contract he signed last summer.
General Manager Paul Holmgren said Tuesday the move was made to add depth behind Sergei Bobrovsky and Brian Boucher heading into the postseason. He also said he'd like Leighton to see some game action against NHL shooters before the playoffs being, so there's a chance he could play Friday against the Buffalo Sabres or in Saturday's season finale against the New York Islanders.
His only NHL action this season was one game, back on Dec. 30 against the Los Angeles Kings, when he stopped 32 of 36 shots in a 7-4 victory. He was placed on waivers Jan. 3 and, after going unclaimed, was assigned to Adirondack the next day.
Leighton went just 14-12-3 in 30 games with the Phantoms, who have scored the fewest goals and earned the second-fewest points in the league, but his 2.22 goals-against average, .926 save percentage and five shutouts all ranked in the top six in the league.
Holmgren told the Courier-Post on Tuesday he's been happy with what he's seen from Leighton during the goaltender's time in the minors.
"I saw him a couple times earlier this season," he told the newspaper. "The team has played better and he's had a few shutouts lately. He needed to get his game in order and he's done that."
Leighton's arrival on waivers from Carolina in December 2009 started a run that saved Philadelphia's season. With starter Ray Emery out with an injury, he replaced an injured Boucher on Dec. 21 in Florida. At the time the Flyers were 14th in the Eastern Conference, but Leighton went 8-0-1 in his first 10 starts, and was 16-5-2 with a 2.48 goals-against average and .918 save percentage in 27 games to help the Flyers climb into playoff contention.
He suffered a sprained ankle against Nashville on March 16, but returned in time for Game 5 of the Flyers' conference semifinal series against the Boston Bruins. In his first appearance since getting hurt, he replaced an injured Boucher and stopped all 14 shots he faced to complete the 4-0 shutout. It was the first combined shutout in a playoff game since 1955.
Leighton backstopped the Flyers into the conference finals, where he shut out the Montreal Canadiens three times in the first four games to help the Flyers win their first conference title since 1997.
In the Stanley Cup Final, however, Leighton was not as sharp, getting pulled in Games 1 and 5 as the Blackhawks won in Game 6 to capture their first Stanley Cup in 49 years.
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