Blackhawks sign Michael Leighton
Leighton, who signed a one-year deal with the Blackhawks on Monday, was in net for the Philadelphia Flyers when Chicago forward Patrick Kane scored the game-winning, series-clinching goal in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals in 2010. The goal gave the Blackhawks their first championships since 1961.
"I think it'll be a little bit of a have-fun-with-it kind of a thing," Leighton said during a teleconference on Monday afternoon. "That was 2010. It was a great season for me. That year really made my career. I can't say I'm disappointed on how the whole turnout went. Obviously, I would have liked to win, but it didn't turn out that way.
"Since then, I've moved on, played some more hockey with different teams. Back in Chicago, it's going to be a couple jokes thrown around the locker room, but I'm over it and looking forward to being a part of the Chicago Blackhawks again."
Leighton, 33, returns to the Blackhawks after being drafted by them in the sixth round in 1999 and spending two seasons with them in the NHL. He was traded by the Blackhawks to the Buffalo Sabres in 2005 and has been bounced around to a variety of teams since then. He has a 35-41-14 record with a 2.97 goals-against average and .901 save percentage in 105 career NHL games.
Leighton's last stop was in the KHL playing for Donbass Donetsk in the Ukraine last season. He went 20-15 with a 1.74 goals-against average and .934 save percentage.
"The experience was good for me," Leighton said of the KHL. "It was very different. It's different hockey, different lifestyle. I've never been over to Europe, so the whole year was different for me. I was planning on going back this year, signed in Sochi, but was unable to attend training camp because of an illness. When that was canceled, kind of looked around here a little bit, and I really liked the offer from Chicago and the chance to play North American hockey again."
Leighton wouldn't get into what the illness he had was, but he said it affected him for four weeks. He said he saw a number of doctors and is fine now.
Leighton's signing gives the Blackhawks another goaltender with NHL experience. Within the organization, only Corey Crawford and Antti Raanta, the Blackhawks' top two goaltenders last season, have played in multiple NHL games. Raanta, the Blackhawks' No. 2 goaltender, signed a one-way deal in the offseason.
Leighton, who will be on a two-way deal, will likely compete with Scott Darling and Kent Simpson for ice time with the Rockford IceHogs, the team's AHL affiliate. The Blackhawks also signed Darling in the offseason.
"I can't speculate or say what the organization has in mind for me," Leighton said. "I'm going to go to training camp to do my best. My goal is obviously to play better than [Raanta] and Crawford if I can. That's all I can control."
For anyone wondering, Leighton also doesn't know where the missing game-winning puck went from Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals.
"I've heard there's a lot of controversy about it," Leighton said. "I don't know where the puck is. I've been asked many times. The last I've seen it was under the net. I kind of lifted the net up and kicked it. I know the referee or linesman was beside me, and that was it. That was kind of the last thing on my mind finding where that puck was. That's all I can tell you about that."