Michael Leighton: Journeyman Making His Final Trip?
While the Blackhawks have a solid 1-2 punch at the NHL level in goal, the AHL level and beyond is much, much more of a question mark for the organization, and at the top of the heap is Michael Leighton.
Leighton, a sixth-round draft pick by the Blackhawks in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, has been around the block and back in a career that has seen him play in the KHL, AHL and NHL and even lead a team to the Stanley Cup Final. Regular season and playoffs included, Leighton has played in more than 600 games since making his professional debut in 2001.
There are two things that stand out most in Leighton’s long career that both have to do with the Blackhawks:
- He is the AHL’s all-time leader in career shutouts with 46.
- He allowed the game-winning goal in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final against the Blackhawks while playing for the Philadelphia Flyers.
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Leighton’s ties to the organization and the abilities that he has shown at the AHL level with the Rockford IceHogs in the last two seasons (50-21-12) show he is a more than serviceable No. 3 option for the Blackhawks at the goaltender position. The problem is, Leighton made his professional debut in 2001, and now is 35 years old after his birthday on May 19. (Happy Belated Birthday, Michael!)
His contract expires this summer and with the Blackhawks’ recent signing of Swedish goaltender Lars Johansson, Leighton’s time with the organization may be coming to an end. It remains to be seen what the Blackhawks plan to do with Leighton, but given his age and the direction they are already moving in, it seems like Leighton is no longer in the plans for Chicago.
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