Flyers goaltender Michael Leighton has been assigned to the Adirondack Phantoms for a 6-day conditioning stint beginning this weekend. Leighton will play with the Phantoms against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Saturday and at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City on Sunday against the Albany Devils.
Sunday’s game is one of five games that the Devils’ ownership has scheduled this season to test the waters for relocating their AHL affiliate from New York to New Jersey. The real story for Flyers fans isn’t whether or not South Jersey residents care enough to support hockey in AC again, but how does Leighton fare between the pipes in his first real challenge since being injured in the preseason, and what do the Flyers ultimately do with him?
I wrote at length about their options in an earlier post (linked here), but the truth is that Sergei Bobrovsky has embedded himself too much into this franchise already to be sent down and Brian Boucher has played well enough to have earned his spot. There is also a very strong chance that if Boucher were to be put on waivers, he would be claimed by another team with weaker goaltending tandems (the Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning come to mind).
My proposal was to place defenseman Matt Walker on long-term injury reserve and keep all three goaltenders on the roster until the team figures out what to do with Leighton, and the discussions on a number of other hockey sites have basically restated the same proposal, albeit with waiving Walker outright rather than placing him on LTIR. It’s the simplest and most sensible solution to the issue, especially when you consider that the Flyers recent acquisition of defenseman Danny Syvret from the Anaheim Ducks makes Walker obsolete from a depth perspective.
Should the Flyers waive Leighton for the time being, he could be considered less of a risk of being picked up on re-entry due to the fact that he may be seen as somewhat of a question mark in terms of his health.
None of this is to suggest that Michael Leighton doesn’t deserve a shot to win back his position, but if goaltending isn’t the Flyers problem right now, why rock the boat?