It’s easy to empathize with Michael Leighton.
After all, it seems like he’s a victim of bad timing – or the eternal state of upheaval that is the Philadelphia Flyers’ goalie positions – more than anything else. After securing a new two-year, $3 million contract thanks to his stunning run to the Stanley Cup finals, the former Carolina Hurricanes product required off-season surgery in September.
That injury cleared the way for the unexpected rise of rookie Sergei Bobrovsky, who just recently seems to be on his way back to Earth (not surprisingly, this began around the time Chris Pronger went on the injured reserve). With a backup who ranges from passable to brilliant in Brian Boucher, the Flyers decided to place Leighton on waivers thanks to their perilous salary cap situation.
Tim Panaccio reports that the big goalie cleared waivers today while Sam Carchidi writes that he was seen “appearing upset” as he packed his bags, being that he is primed to join the the Adirondack Phantoms once again. Many thought that the New York Islanders would decide to pick him up on waivers after Rick DiPietro left Monday’s game against the Calgary Flames with an injury, but that did not come to pass.
Travis Hughes of the Flyers blog Broadstreet Hockey fills in the details regarding Leighton’s future (and lack thereof with Philadelphia).
Leighton will still get paid his full salary, but he’s removed from the Flyers’ capped payroll. With Erik Gustafsson back on the Phantoms, and assuming Leighton is officially assigned before 5 p.m. today, the Flyers are actually just barely under the salary cap by $4,262 per day, according to our Geoff Detweiler.
Leighton cannot be called up to the Flyers without being subject to re-entry waivers, which in a nutshell means he likely won’t ever be a Flyer again (until three seasons from now when the claim him on waivers again…). The only way, it seems, for him to make it back to the Flyers would be during training camp next year when waivers do not apply. That is, if he’s not traded or claimed in re-entry or retired because the Phantoms make him miserable before then.
With the start of the regular season just around the corner, it looks like Robby Fabbri will not only make his NHL debut on Thursday, but also get meaningful minutes.
During Sunday’s practice the 19-year-old forward played alongside Jori Lehtera and Jaden Schwartz. Nothing is set in stone, but that combination did gel.
“I think we want to look at what the combinations look like now rather than do it at the start of the season,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We’re looking at a hard match line and we’re also looking at taking advantage of speed and skill off the rush.
“I really liked what I saw today. I really liked Lehtera’s line, they looked very dynamic off the rush.”
The top line of Alexander Steen, Paul Stastny, and Vladimir Tarasenko seems like a good bet to play together for the time being. Jori Lehtera and Jaden Schwartz will stick together on the second line while Dmitrij Jaskin and David Backes can expect to be regular partners on the third unit. The X-factors will be Fabbri and Troy Brouwer as Hitchcock has left the door open to alternating between the two of them on the second and third line depending on the opponent.
Fabbri was taken with the 21st overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and is looking to make the leap after a brief stint in the AHL last season. At the OHL level, he’s been a dominate force with the Guelph Storm, scoring 25 goals and 51 points in 30 games in 2014-15.
Will Artem Panarin‘s overwhelming success in the KHL translate to North America? The 23-year-old forward has a lot to prove, but his first big test was a success.
Playing on a line with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, Panarin made his preseason debut in Chicago’s finale on Saturday. He registered two assists while giving his teammates reason to be optimistic about him.
“For not being on the ice he looks really relaxed. He’s great with the puck, has nice moves and I think we’ll see a lot of this,” Marian Hossa told CSN Chicago. “He has unbelievable skill. People here in Chicago are going to have a good time watching this guy dangling.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was impressed by Panarin as well and liked that line as a whole.
The fact that the trio seemed to hit it off quickly has to come as a relief after an upper-body injury prevented Panarin from getting the most out of this year’s training camp. At the end of the day though, the fact that he was able to at least get in one preseason contest is a big silver lining. How smoothly his adjustment goes from here is still a big X-factor, but at least now he’s going into the regular season with a better idea of what to expect.
Panarin is attempting to establish himself in the NHL after leading the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg to a championship last year. He was the team’s scoring leader, topping ex-NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk.