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.
Kari Lehtonen ranked eighth among goaltenders in total minutes last season while Antti Niemi was ninth. If everything goes according to plan, neither of them will be in the top-10 next season and that’s something the 31-year-old Finnish goaltenders are comfortable with.
“My year was disappointing, so I want to fix that, and I’m open to doing anything I can to do that,” Lehtonen said, per the Dallas Morning News. “We are adults and we are older in our careers, so I think we can work through anything that comes up. Goalies have a certain friendship and Antti and I are friends, and I think that helps a great deal.”
He added that he thinks he plays better when rested, so he sees the advantage to his playing time being reduced.
Niemi was obviously aware of the situation before inking a three-year, $13.5 million contract on Monday, so it’s no surprise that he’s open to it. He did point out though that this will provide him with more time to recover between starts and work with goalie coach Jeff Reese.
It should help that the duo is familiar with each other. Lehtonen still remembers splitting ice time with Niemi for a game when they were both 10 years old. Much more recently, they were roommates during the 2014 Winter Olympics.
This will be an expensive experiment for Dallas as the two netminders have a combined $10.4 million annual cap hit for the next three seasons. That means the Stars will be paying more for its goaltending than even the New York Rangers, which carry the current cap hit leader among netminders in Henrik Lundqvist ($8.5 million annually).
Devan Dubnyk is close to cashing in on his remarkable bounce-back season.
From Chad Graff of the St. Paul Pioneer Press:
The deal is “99 percent done,” according to GM Chuck Fletcher. It may not be announced until Monday.
Click here to see comparable cap hits for NHL goalies. The highest belongs to Henrik Lundqvist, at $8.5 million. Dubnyk, at $4.3 million, would be right between Steve Mason ($4.1 million) and Jaroslav Halak ($4.5 million). Which is more than reasonable for a Vezina Trophy finalist.
It’s Dubnyk’s six-year term that brings a higher degree of risk into the equation for the club. The 29-year-old has had wildly mixed results during his NHL career. Only a year ago he was worrying he could be out of the league completely. Now he’s about to turn a 39-game run into a contract that won’t expire until 2021.
Update: Here’s the latest word:
Related: So…what should the Wild do with Dubnyk?