Flyers Michael Leighton
Flyers goalie Michael Leighton watches as a referee looks for the puck in the net during overtime in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals Wednesday in Philadelphia. Leighton's future with the team is uncertain. Mel Evans

Three goalies are hanging around the locker room at Flyers SkateZone in Voorhees these days.

That's not a problem, but it soon will be.

Michael Leighton is close to returning from a back injury that has sidelined him since the preseason. He hopes to start a minor-league rehab assignment soon and then return to the NHL club.

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Leighton was expected to be the Flyers' starting goalie entering this season. But while he recovered from back surgery, the team has ridden rookie Sergei Bobrovsky and veteran Brian Boucher to the best record in the NHL more than a quarter of the way through the season.

Now, the Flyers have to decide whether to mess with something that isn't broken.

Bobrovsky is a virtual lock to remain the starter. The 22-year-old Russian rookie started every game during the Flyers' recent 9-0-1 streak. And though he struggled in an 8-7 loss to Tampa Bay last week and has sat out the past two games, a lot more would have to go wrong for him to lose the job. He's clearly the most talented of the three goalies, and he has answered the two other big questions that skeptics had about him before the season: He appears unflappable for a rookie, and he has not had trouble adjusting to the NHL-sized rink.

So the choice is probably between Leighton and Boucher.

Leighton is younger -- he's 29, while Boucher turns 34 on Jan. 2. At 6-foot-3, he's an inch taller than Boucher.

Last season, Leighton beat out Boucher for the starting job in the regular season, lost it when he got hurt, and then regained it when Boucher got hurt in the playoffs.

Once both goalies finally were healthy in the Stanley Cup finals, Leighton was pulled twice during games, but both times coach Peter Laviolette went back to him the following game, despite Boucher having been superb in the first two rounds of the playoffs.

So Laviolette clearly favors Leighton when he needs to pick a starter.

But now he needs to pick a backup to Bobrovsky, so some other factors might come into play.

First, Boucher's salary-cap number is just $925,000 this season, according to Leighton's is $1,550,000.

The Flyers have the third-smallest amount of cap space in the NHL, according to, at $265,205. So the $625,000 difference in Boucher's and Leighton's salaries shouldn't be taken lightly.

Conversely, if the Flyers decide they'd rather trade one of them than send one to the minors, Boucher's salary would be the easier one to move, especially since he is in the final year of his contract while Leighton has one more year.

The other possible factor is Boucher's history with the franchise. This is his third stint with the organization that drafted him, and he's well-liked by teammates and the fans.

Leighton is well-liked in the locker room, but he probably will never hear anything like the "Booooosh" chants Boucher is treated to at the Wells Fargo Center. He's best known for letting in Patrick Kane's soft goal to end the Cup finals last season.

So there is no obvious solution to the Flyers' goalie problem. But unless someone gets injured soon or Bobrovsky implodes, the Flyers will have to cut someone loose.

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