SYRACUSE, NY – The Tampa Bay Lightning organization made quite the bold move when they decided not to re-sign Crunch goaltender, Mike McKenna, and bring in American Hockey League veteran, Michael Leighton, to take his place. McKenna had just led Syracuse to the Calder Cup Finals, so the decision to let him go elsewhere was a surprise to most.

In Leighton, the Crunch not only receives an elite AHL netminder who can come in and be the team’s starter, they get a battle-tested veteran who can mentor their rookie, Connor Ingram.

There is no question that in order to one day become the best, it is advantageous to learn from the best. Although his success at the National Hockey League level made be limited, it is hard to argue what the 36-year-old Leighton has been able to accomplish in the AHL. Leighton has appeared in 465 career AHL games with a 232-172-44, good enough to be tied for fifth all-time in victories, and is the league leader in shutouts with 49.

While he is no longer a spring chicken, only manning the crease for 23 games with the Charlotte Checkers last season, he still has what it takes to be the number one netminder for the Crunch for one year. In that time, Syracuse hopes that Leighton can take Ingram under his wing and teach him to become a successful goalie at the AHL level, at least.

Ingram was selected by the Lightning in the third round (88th overall) in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. He spent last season in the Western Hockey League with Kamloops Blazers where he went 26-14-2. The Crunch hope that the 20-year-old will be their netminder of the future and they have brought in the perfect person to ensure that scenario plays out.

Watching Leighton between the pipes for Syracuse should be an absolute pleasure to watch. He really has been one of the best, if not the best, AHL goalie for quite some time. However, all of the knowledge he will be able to bestow on the rookie Ingram, will certainly outweigh his on-ice contributions.

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