The Carolina Hurricanes, parent club of the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers, have agreed to terms with goaltender Michael Leighton on a one-year, two-way contract. The deal will pay Leighton $700,000 on the NHL level, or $250,000 on the American Hockey League (AHL) level for the 2016-17 season.
“Michael is a veteran player who gives our organization reliable depth in goal,” said Ron Francis, executive vice president and general manager of the Hurricanes. “He is a true professional who also will serve as a valuable mentor for the young goaltenders in our system.”
Leighton, 35, posted a 28-8-8 record, a 2.44 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage in 46 games with the Chicago’s AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs, in 2015-16. The Petrolia, Ont., native became the AHL’s all-time shutouts leader, surpassing Hockey Hall of Famer Johnny Bower’s six-decades-old AHL record when he earned his 46th career AHL shutout against Lake Erie on March 5. Earlier in the season, he became the 13th goaltender in AHL history to earn 200 wins when he backstopped the IceHogs to a 5-2 win at Iowa on Nov. 13.
Leighton tied an AHL career high with 28 wins last season, and backstopped the Central Division to its win at the 2016 AHL All-Star Challenge, marking his fourth career AHL All-Star appearance. Following the season, he was named the recipient of the AHL’s 2015-16 President’s Award for his outstanding accomplishments during the season. He played in one game in relief for the Blackhawks in 2015-16, allowing one goal in 39 minutes of work against Dallas on March 22.
Originally drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in 1999, Leighton has appeared in 442 regular-season AHL contests and ranks ninth in league history with 221 victories. In addition to being a four-time All-Star, Leighton was named to the AHL All-Rookie Team in 2001-02 and won the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award as the AHL’s outstanding goaltender in 2007-08.
In postseason play, Leighton owns the AHL records for saves in a single game (98, in a five-overtime loss on Apr. 24, 2008) and for lowest GAA in a single playoff year (1.18, in 2008). He shows a 1.68 GAA and .946 save percentage with five more shutouts in 27 career Calder Cup Playoff contests.
In the National Hockey League, Leighton has played 106 regular-season games with Chicago, Nashville, Philadelphia and Carolina. He reached the Stanley Cup Final with the Flyers in 2010, going 8-3 with three shutouts in 14 games that postseason.