Leighton Takes Broken Road Back To Blackhawks

Michael Leighton is wearing a Chicago Blackhawks uniform for the first time since the 2003-04 season.  (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

Michael Leighton is wearing a Chicago Blackhawks uniform for the first time since the 2003-04 season. (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

It feels like Michael Leighton has been everywhere over the past years, so it may be hard to remember that he came up with the Chicago Blackhawks organization.  The 165th overall selection of the Original Six franchise back in 1999, the goaltender reached the NHL in the Windy City in both the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons, but left the organization just prior to the start of the 2005-06 season when he was traded to the Buffalo Sabres.

A multitude of organizations, an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final with the Philadelphia Flyers and a trip to the KHL later, and the now-33-year-old finds himself back with the Blackhawks, albeit unexpectedly.

“I was supposed to go play in the KHL this year with Sochi, and I ended up getting ill a week or two before I was supposed to leave, and they ended up canceling my contract,” said Leighton, who posted a 1.74 GAA and .933 save percentage with Donbass last season.

“I waited around for about three or four weeks trying to get healthy.  I heard from a few teams, but Chicago seemed like the best fit for me.”

The experience in the KHL, his first time playing in Europe was a unique one.

“It was definitely different for me,” he said.  “I’ve never been overseas anywhere, so just traveling over there and playing a different style of hockey was quite interesting for me.  It was an experience, and I’m glad to be back here.”

Leighton, who says it’s “definitely strange coming back” to an organization he hasn’t been a part of in nine years, will provide veteran depth behind incumbent starter Corey Crawford and backup Antti Raanta, and expects to start his season in Rockford.

“I know it’s not easy to come back from Europe and play in the NHL, so for me I’ve got a good contract in the AHL and when I signed this deal, that’s what I was expecting,” he said.  “So if I get sent down, I’m just going to work my butt off and try to get back up.”

A veteran of 106 NHL games, most recently in 2012-13 with the Flyers, Leighton also unveiled a new mask for the season, featuring a wide array of colors and a minion character from the popular “Despicable Me” movies on it.

“I’ve got three young kids, and they thought it was great,” he said through a smile.  “I know kids will like it.  It was just something my wife came up with.”

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