Just days after trading away Antti Raanta, the Chicago Blackhawks have shored up their goaltending by re-signing veteran Michael Leighton.
Per ESPN, it’s a two-way deal that pays $575,000 at the NHL level.
Leighton, 34, enjoyed a solid campaign with AHL Rockford last season, going 22-13-4 with a 2.26 GAA and .920 save percentage. He finished with five shutouts, led the team to the playoffs and was named the IceHogs’ MVP.
A veteran of over 100 career NHL games — and a Stanley Cup Final with Philadelphia, which he lost to the ‘Hawks — Leighton is now firmly entrenched as Chicago’s No. 3 netminder, behind Scott Darling and Corey Crawford.
Raanta, who at times served as Crawford’s backup with the ‘Hawks, was traded to the Rangers at the draft to fill Cam Talbot’s backup gig behind Henrik Lundqvist. Talbot was flipped to Edmonton.
The Vancouver Canucks announced that they have agreed to a two-year deal with goaltender Jacob Markstrom.
His contract will come with a $1.55 million annual cap hit, according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun.
The 25-year-old is set to enter the 2015-16 campaign as Ryan Miller’s understudy after Vancouver dealt Eddie Lack to Carolina on Saturday in exchange for the 66th overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft (Guillaume Brisebois) and a seventh rounder in 2016.
That trade was controversial, in part because Lack was a fan favorite coming off of a season where he posted a .921 save percentage in 41 contests and due to Markstrom’s struggles at the NHL level. In 50 career games, Markstrom has a 3.19 GAA and .896 save percentage.
At the same time, Markstrom posted 1.88 GAA and .934 save percentage in 32 games with AHL Utica in 2014-15 before leading the team to the Calder Cup Final with a 2.11 GAA and .925 save percentage in 23 playoff contests.
That was enough to convince team president Trevor Linden that he’s ready for the next level.
“I think if you look at the history of, whether it be Corey Crawford or Ben Bishop, or these types of players and how they perform at the American Hockey League level, and look at stats and numbers, you can put Jacob in that category,” said Linden. “He’s had an excellent year. He needs to continue to develop at the National Hockey League level, and we’re going to give him that opportunity.”
Vancouver also signed Linden Vey to a one-year, $1 million contract tonight.
Related: Linden defends Lack trade, thinks Canucks will have ‘real good goaltending next year’
The New York Rangers quickly filled the void left behind in trading Cam Talbot on Saturday, as they traded for Antti Raanta, sending Ryan Haggerty to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Really, the deal makes sense for both sides.
Again, the Rangers determined that Talbot would be too expensive to re-sign, so they grab Raanta and his $750K cap hit for 2015-16. The 26-year-old was overshadowed by Scott Darling at times this past season, although it’s tough to beat Raanta up for what he accomplished: a sparkling .936 save percentage with a 7-4-1 record. One could argue that his resume may end up looking a lot like Talbot’s after the 2015-16 season ends. (Maybe.)
Both the Rangers and Blackhawks know that every cent counts, and Chicago was already moving toward Darling as Corey Crawford’s backup. It’s not spectacular savings since Darling’s first season is two-way, but it makes sense for the ‘Hawks to grab a prospect for their troubles.
The general reaction is positive, especially for the Rangers.