LOS ANGELES CA - DECEMBER 30: Goaltender Michael Leighton #49 of the Philadelphia Flyers looks on during a breeak in the game with the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on December 30 2010 in Los Angeles California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Via Bob McKenzie of TSN comes the news today that Michael Leighton is on re-entry waivers. As we know, re-entry waivers allow any team in the league to claim a player at half price, and should he be claimed, the Flyers will be on the hook for the other half of his salary.
Leighton has been fantastic of late with the Adirondack Phantoms. We saw him in Glens Falls a little over a week ago and he looked like a men amongst boys, clearly stuck in that "AAAA" state of hockey -- limbo between the AHL and NHL.
He's too good for the AHL, and as a result, the Phantoms are actually playing quite well right now. Ask Tim McManus at the Post-Star: he's one of the Three Stars every single night. But it's not as if he's gotten any better, to the point where he'd be a better option in the Flyers net.
So why are they trying to bring him up? I can see a few possible reasons. (For the record, there's a belief that re-entry waivers don't apply in the playoffs, but I'm of the opinion that that's not true. The CBA isn't totally clear one way or another, but the fact that Leighton is on re-entry waivers now is enough evidence for me.)
1. They don't trust Brian Boucher.
For whatever reason, despite his capable play in net all season long, it's possible that the Flyers don't trust Boosh behind Sergei Bobrovsky in the postseason. Perhaps they feel Leighton is a better option behind Bob and would rather have him sit on the bench and open doors.
For what it's worth, I don't believe this is the case. If it was the case, Boosh would've been gone a long time ago.
2. They want him to get claimed.
This, of course, would be silly. Half of Leighton's salary -- about $775,000 -- will count against the Flyers' salary cap next season should Leighton be claimed. At the same time, it would solve a bit of a problem in terms of getting developing other players at the AHL level. While Leighton has been great for the Phantoms, it does mean that Johan Backlund is just sitting around on a wooden stool (seriously) during games.
3. They simply want the insurance.
This seems like the most likely option. What if they need a third goaltender in the postseason? Leighton gives them an insurance policy in case of an injury or in case both Bob and Boosh have troubles in the playoffs. This makes sense, and it seems to be the only justification for the risk of losing him to the waiver wire.
That's the remaining question here: how big is that risk? Will a team claim Michael Leighton? I can imagine several teams willing to take a shot at him, even in just a backup role, at $775,000 for one year. Geoff compiled a list of teams that don't have backups signed for next season, and that list runs at least 11 teams deep. It's important to note, though, that if a team claims Leighton, he can't play for them until next season.
We'll find out in the next 24 hours or so.