The Chicago Blackhawks already have two solid goaltenders in Corey Crawford and Antti Raanta, but the team added another veteran to the mix on Monday morning, inking Michael Leighton to a 1-year contract.
If that name sounds familiar to Blackhawks fans, it should. Leighton not only was a sixth round draft pick of the Blackhawks in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft (he played in 42 games with the team, going 8-21-10 in the process), but he also was on the ice for one of the most important moments in team history:
Leighton likely wasn’t brought back because of those connections to the team of course, but he will play an important role nonetheless. Much like Jason LaBarbera did last season, the Hawks want to make sure that they have a back-up plan in case either Raanta or Crawford is injured during the season, so Leighton will in all likelihood begin the year in Rockford with the IceHogs and serve as an insurance policy in net.
Looking at the team’s stable of goalies without Leighton isn’t a pretty sight. Mac Carruth and Kent Simpson are both still in the system, but neither one would figure to be an attractive option if a goaltender was injured. Adding Leighton means that the team will at least have an NHL-caliber goalie at the ready if a situation similar to late 2013 emerges, when both Nikolai Khabibulin and Crawford were sidelined with injuries.