Hurricanes bring back goalie Leighton on two-way contract

Veteran goalie brings experience to Charlotte, insurance for Raleigh

RALEIGH — The Carolina Hurricanes added an insurance policy in net Wednesday, bringing back journeyman goalie Michael Leighton on a one-year, two-way contract. The addition of Leighton, 35, gives the Hurricanes an experienced No. 3 behind Cam Ward and Eddie Lack and provides the Charlotte Checkers, the team’s AHL affiliate, with a veteran to compete with prospects Daniel Altshuller and Alex Nedeljkovic. The deal will pay Leighton $700,000 in the NHL and $250,000 in the AHL.Leighton has 106 games of NHL regular season experience — including 50 starts — with four teams, 29 of which came with the Hurricanes from 2008 until he was claimed off waivers by Philadelphia in December 2009.Leighton (35-41-15 in the NHL during 15 professional seasons) seized control of the Flyers net that year and took Philadelphia all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. Patrick Kane scored an overtime game-winner on Leighton in Game 6 to give Chicago the first of three titles the Blackhawks have won this decade.”Michael is a veteran player who gives our organization reliable depth in goal,” general manager Ron Francis said in a release. “He is a true professional who also will serve as a valuable mentor for the young goaltenders in our system.”Francis hinted on July 1 that the team could look to add more depth in goal.”I think if we have to go that way we’re very comfortable with it. We don’t have a problem with it,” Francis said of having Altshuller, 22, or Nedeljkovic, 20, one injury away from being in the NHL. “If there’s something that presents itself that we think makes sense, to add a third guy with a little bit more depth, we wouldn’t be opposed to doing that at this point either.”While Leighton has a wealth of NHL experience, he has spent the majority of his career in the AHL. He has three 28-win seasons, including a career-best 28-8-8 record with Rockford last year, and has not had a losing AHL campaign since 2005-06. He became the league’s all-time shutout leader when he recorded 46th in a game last March. Leighton spent the 2013-14 campaign with Donbass HC of the KHL, but returned to North America after one season.Leighton was a sixth-round pick by Chicago in the 1999 draft and had two stints in the Blackhawks organization. On top of his time with the Hurricanes and Flyers, he also played one for the Nashville Predators. On top of the addition of Leighton, the Checkers announced they signed four players to AHL deals. Goaltender Anthony Peters, who played one game for the Checkers and 46 with the ECHL’s Florida Everblades, was re-signed. The 25-year-old’s 44 saves in his one appearance with Charlotte was the most of any Checkers goalie last season.Three other players — defenseman Kevin Raine and forwards Mike Ferrantino and Levko Koper — were also give two-way AHL contracts. Raine played 50-plus games with the Los Angeles Kings’ AHL affiliate in each of the last two seasons. Both Ferrantino and Koper saw brief stints in the ECHL at the end of last season following the end of their respective collegiate careers.All but Koper, who was taken in the seventh round of the 2009 NHL draft by the Atlanta Thrashers but never signed, were undrafted players.