Michael Leighton has begun skating on his own, three and a half weeks after it was announced that he would need to have surgery for a herniated disc in his spine. If everything goes to plan, he could return some time in December. His return, however, means that somebody on the roster is going to have to move and chances are it isn’t rookie goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.
The Flyers have the option of putting either Leighton or goaltender Brian Boucher on waivers, but will expose both to being picked up by another team. Boucher is less of a risk than Leighton in terms of salary and contract length, but who knows how healthy Leighton is considering the organization thought he was healthy to begin with.
Bobrovsky could be sent down to the AHL without being exposed to waivers, but his spot on this team has been solidified due to his play between the pipes and his dedication to a team he can barely communicate with. That hasn’t prevented his teammates from extolling his worth.
Danny Briere: “He’s up there amongst the best that I’ve seen… he’s a good goalie as far as quickness [goes]… he’s young. Things are looking up. He keeps it going… you don’t want to get too excited too quick, let’s give him a chance to play more games before that but its fun to watch him.”
Chris Pronger: “He’s pretty relaxed back there. He understands… kinda lets the game come to him a little bit. Obviously in the third [period against the Carolina Hurricanes], a lot of powerplays on both sides, he came up with a number of good stops.”
The Flyers have won their fourth game in a row with Monday’s win against the Hurricanes, with the last four backstopped by Bobrovsky. Statistically, Bob is in the middle of the pack. His 2.39 goals-against-average in eight games hasn’t cracked the top ten in the league, but the tandem of Boucher and Bobrovsky are better than any other tandem in the Atlantic Division, aside from the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The option that I haven’t heard many bring up is keeping all three goaltenders. If someone on the current roster has to go, let it be defenseman Matt Walker, who has yet to play a regular season game with the Flyers due to a groin injury. Walker is out indefinitely and has been held off the long-term injured reserve list for the time being to avoid salary cap issues later. The Flyers would be carrying the same amount of healthy players they have now, but with an additional goalie.
The additional time will allow the organization to assess whether Bobrovsky has the capacity to handle the full workload as a rookie. During that process, they can assess whether Leighton is healthy enough to handle the workload as back-up, or starter if he shines. In any case, Bobrovsky will not benefit from any time with the Phantoms, who sadly would only hurt his development between their lack of success and the apparent deficiency in the team’s leadership.
No matter what happens, one thing is certain: one of the Flyers from opening night is going to have to go.
On a separate but interesting note, the top goaltender in the NHL in all categories right now is Boston Bruins netminder Tim Thomas. The Flyers were rumored to be interested in trading for his services over the summer. I dreaded the rumor at the time, as the 36-year old Thomas has three years remaining on a four-year, $20 million contract and was outperformed last season by rookie goaltender Tuukka Rask. Needless to say, I have to tip my hat to Thomas, whose ridiculous 0.50 goals-against-average and 0.984 save percentage are what dreams are made of.