NHL approves Flyers’ request to extend Michael Leighton’s rehab stint; team plans on going with three goalies soon

The Philadelphia Flyers have been to goalies what George Clooney is to beautiful women. The cast of characters seems to change on a whim, yet the results are often surprisingly productive regardless of whomever dons the pads.

(Um, not to say that Clooney’s ladies need pads. I’m talking about goalie pads, folks. Moving on.)

Last season, the Flyers’ goalies dropped like flies to the point that their two mainstay netminders ending up being journeyman goalie Brian Boucher and Carolina Hurricanes outcast Michael Leighton. Each goalie had his moments during the Flyers’ improbable run to the Stanley Cup finals, though Leighton seemed to shine the brightest because he helped Philly come back from a 3-0 deficit against the Boston Bruins in the conference finals.

Such a run helped Leighton earn another contract with the team, yet holding true to the Flyers’ unending soap opera in net, he ended up needing back surgery at the worst time – right before this season was about to begin.

His injury opened the door for little known Russian rookie Sergei Bobrovsky, who took advantage of that opportunity with resounding aplomb. “Bob” sports a 14-4-2 record with a sparkling 92.5 save percentage and fantastic 2.21 GAA. Boucher hasn’t been quite as strong in net, but is still a solid backup at a low price point.

Which brings us back to Leighton, suddenly the odd man out in Philly because of that back injury and Bobrovsky’s unexpected climb into the Calder Trophy race. The Flyers must soon confront what exactly to do with their big should-be starter, but the good news is that they bought themselves an extra week to figure something out.

For the last six days, Leighton has been trying to get his legs underneath him via a conditioning stint with the Adirondack Phantoms. Neither Leighton nor the Flyers felt that he was ready for NHL action after his two appearances with the Phantoms (0-2, 87.5 save percentage and 3.55 GAA), so Flyers GM Paul Holmgren asked for an extension on his rehab assignment. The NHL approved that extension, according to Stephen Whyno of the Philadelphia Sports Daily.

Per the league’s collective bargaining agreement, a player can spend at most six days or three games on a conditioning assignment unless an extension is filed and approved. That happened Monday, so Leighton will get to play two more American Hockey League games for the Phantoms before the Flyers face a decision.

Leighton said despite lingering pain from a nerve issue in his foot that he felt good about how the conditioning stint went. But he met with Holmgren and goalie coach Jeff Reese Monday morning and they decided it wouldn’t be smart to bring him back at less than 100 percent.

“I don’t wanna come back if I’m not 100 percent,” Leighton said Monday. “I think in a way I could come back right now, but I probably won’t be 100 percent.”

When Leighton is ready to return, the Flyers will have to make a corresponding roster move to fit him under the salary cap. But Holmgren said that move will likely not be getting rid of a goalie, which means Sergei Bobrovsky, Brian Boucher and Leighton would all be on the roster.

The Flyers will likely have to make an uncomfortable move or two to accommodate Leighton’s $1.55 million cap hit and then would need to deal with the added discomfort of rolling with three goalies. Still, deciding which of 2-3 competent goalies to start is an “issue” few expected Philadelphia to deal with, so beggars cannot be choosers. I guess.

Christian Ehrhoff signs with Kolner Haie in Germany

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 27: Christian Ehrhoff #10 of Team Europe looks on against Team Canada during the second period during Game One of the World Cup of Hockey final series at Air Canada Centre on September 27, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Christian Ehrhoff is finally under contract for this season, but not in the NHL.

Ehrhoff, 34, signed with Kolner Haie in Germany, the team announced via Twitter on Monday.

Most recently, Ehrhoff was with the Boston Bruins on a professional tryout (PTO) prior to the beginning of the season, but he opted not to sign with that club, instead deciding to return home to Germany.

Ehrhoff also suited up for Team Europe at this fall’s World Cup of Hockey.

In 789 NHL games, the puck-moving defenseman scored 74 goals and 339 points. His most productive seasons came with the Vancouver Canucks, as he helped that team to the Stanley Cup Final in 2011.

As expected, Avalanche recall highly touted prospect Rantanen

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 21:  Mikko Rantanen #96 of the Colorado Avalanche warms up prior to facing the Carolina Hurricanes at Pepsi Center on October 21, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Hurricanes defeated the Avalanche 1-0 in overtime.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Last week, it was reported that Colorado Avalanche forward prospect Mikko Rantanen would re-join the team at some point this week.

On Monday, the Avalanche made good on that plan, recalling Rantanen, the 2015 first-round pick, from San Antonio in the American Hockey League.

The move comes after Toronto claimed Colorado forward Ben Smith off waivers, opening a spot up front for Colorado.

Rantanen’s season got off to an unfortunate start. He suffered a sprained ankle in a rookie tournament, and was eventually sent down to the minors to get some playing time after coming back from the injury.

It’s expected that Rantanen, who had an impressive rookie campaign in the minors with the Rampage despite still being a teenager, will be put into a top-six role right away for the Avalanche, which is averaging 3.2 goals a game early on.

He scored 24 goals and 60 points in 52 games in the AHL last season, and had a small taste of the NHL. He began the season with the Avalanche, and was later recalled from the minors in the middle of March when Nathan MacKinnon went out with a knee injury.

Rantanen, who later this week will turn 20 years old, didn’t register a point in nine games with the Avalanche last season. But he still did get that experience, as well as most of an AHL season under his belt, which could serve him well this time around.

Given he is a 10th overall selection, and his numbers in Europe before the draft and in the minors as an NHL prospect, there are high expectations for what Rantanen could potentially do at the big-league level for an Avalanche team that already boasts highly skilled playmakers like MacKinnon, Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog and Tyson Barrie.

The Avalanche are in the midst of a break in their schedule, with five days between games.

They don’t play again until Friday, when they host the Winnipeg Jets, so Rantanen’s season debut in Colorado will have to wait at least until then.

Canucks recall training camp standout Stecher

Vancouver Canucks' Alexander Edler, of Sweden; Joseph Labate; Alexis D'Aoust; James Sheppard; and Troy Stecher, from left, celebrate Labate's goal against the Edmonton Oilers during the second period of an NHL hockey preseason game Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016, in Vancouver, British Columbia. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Didn’t take Troy Stecher long to get back up to the NHL.

Stecher, the undrafted free agent out of North Dakota that starred for Vancouver in the preseason, has been recalled from AHL Utica along with forward Jayson Megna.

The Canucks needed some fresh bodies from the farm following injuries to Alex Burrows, Derek Dorsett and, most distressingly, defenseman Chris Tanev. Tanev took a bad spill into the boards during Sunday’s loss to Anaheim, and appeared to be in serious discomfort.

If he’s out for any length of time, it could be a problem.

The 26-year-old is one of Vancouver’s top blueliners and a valued defensive defenseman. He’s averaging over 20 minutes per night this year, and is coming off a campaign in which he scored 18 points in 69 games, while averaging a career-best 21:45 TOI per night.

Stecher, 22, could draw into the lineup for Tuesday’s home date against Ottawa as Tanev’s replacement, or the Canucks could give towering Russian rearguard Nikita Tryamkin his season debut.

Tryamkin, who appeared in 13 games for Vancouver last year, has yet to dress but also refused assignment to Utica (he has an out clause allowing him to return to the KHL rather than report to the minors.)

Update: General manager Jim Benning confirmed to Ben Kuzma of The Province that Burrows and Dorsett have been placed on injured reserve, and will be out a minimum of seven days.

Canucks’ Tryamkin refuses AHL assignment, would prefer to be a healthy scratch apparently

EDMONTON, AB - APRIL 6:  Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers battles against Nikita Tryamkin #88 of the Vancouver Canucks on April 6, 2016 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The game was the final game the Oilers played at Rexall Place before moving to Rogers Place next season. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

The Vancouver Canucks have an interesting situation with big Russian defenseman Nikita Tryamkin. Six games into season, the 22-year-old defenseman has yet to get into the lineup, and he’s been brandishing the KHL out-clause in his contract by refusing an assignment to the AHL.

“There is no possibility that he will play in the American Hockey League,” GM Jim Benning said this weekend, per the Vancouver Sun. “We’ve explored that. We’ve talked to him and his agent and he has said no. In a perfect world, we’d like him to get some games (in the minors). But it is what it is. He is working hard in practice and doing extra work.”

Tryamkin was the 66th overall pick in the 2014 draft, an enticing project with size and strength, one who naturally drew comparisons to Zdeno Chara. He came to North America late last season, after his fourth KHL campaign with Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg had finished, and played 13 games (1G, 1A) for the Canucks down the (meaningless) stretch.

It remains to be seen when he’ll get into a game again. Chris Tanev got banged up Sunday in Anaheim and is questionable for tomorrow’s home date against Ottawa, but Tanev is more likely to be replaced by Alex Biega, who played as a forward against the Ducks.

Tryamkin, meanwhile, will likely have to sit and wait. Unless he gets bored enough to go to Utica, which is where the Canucks would like him anyway.

Per Cap Friendly, Tryamkin’s contract pays him $925,000 in the NHL versus $70,000 in the AHL. He can become a restricted free agent after the season is over, which would allow him to return to the KHL should he choose to do so.