Jul 5, 2013, 12:21 PM EDT
The busy Flyers wasted no time in filling their huge void at goaltender. Tim Panaccio confirmed a report shortly after free agency began at noon on Friday that the Flyers have agreed to terms with Blackhawks netminder Ray Emery on a one-year contract. The deal is worth $1.65 million according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun.
Emery posted a 17-1-0 record, .922 save percentage, and 1.94 goals against average in 21 games for Chicago last season, helping the eventual Stanley Cup winners compile the best record in the NHL during the abbreviated 48-game regular season. He is expected to compete with 2009 Calder Trophy winner Steve Mason for the Flyers’ starting job.
This is not Emery’s first run in Orange & Black. The man known as Razor signed with the Flyers as a free agent in 2009, going 16-11-1 with a .905 SV% through 2.64 GAA in 29 games. He was placed on injured reserve in December with a torn muscle is in his abdomen, but later was diagnosed with avascular necrosis and lost for the season.
The end result for the Flyers was a goaltending duo of Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton steering the club to the Stanley Cup Finals in his stead.
Meanwhile, the disease threatened to end Emery’s career entirely, as it notoriously shortened two-sport star Bo Jackson’s. A year later however, Emery was back on the ice with Anaheim, appearing in 10 games in 10-11. He’s spent the last two seasons with the Blackhawks, and if 2013 was any indication, this is as healthy as he’s going to get.
Emery became the first goaltender in NHL history to start a season 10-0-0, running the record to 12 wins until he was finally dealt his first loss. Along with teammate Corey Crawford, he was awarded the William M. Jennings Trophy for the goaltending combo that gives up the fewest goals in the league.
When Emery was originally brought to Philly on a one-year deal from Ottawa in ’09, there was talk of attitude and/or character issues both on and off the ice. Those types of problems never reared their ugly head in his short time with the Flyers, nor have they since, which would seem to close the book on that chapter of the netminder’s career.
As a short-term move, the addition of Emery to the Flyers’ roster makes perfect sense. Both he and Mason are on one-year contracts, earning roughly the same amount of money, which puts them on somewhat equal footing.
Don’t expect Emery, who turns 31 in September, to necessarily come in and replicate the kind of numbers he racked up this year in Chicago though. In 19 starts, he faced an average of 22.8 shots per game – lower than any team in the NHL. The Blackhawks are a tremendous puck possession team, while the Flyers generally struggled defensively.
Still, he is a solid veteran who could push Mason, or might outright win the job and perhaps lead the Philly back to the playoffs.
As a long-term solution, it’s hard to envision. Emery has been playing on a series of one-year deals since he first signed with the Flyers, and while he’s overcome his condition for the time being, it’s likely shortened his career significantly at least. Should he outplay Mason and earn an extension of sorts, goaltender will likely remain a hot-button issue down the road.
For now, Emery is a logical fit. While the Flyers will have one of the cheapest goaltending tandems in the NHL at a little over $3 million, the group consists of a promising reclamation project in Mason, 25, and a nine-year veteran coming off of his best season ever – without making a commitment beyond 2013 to either one of them.
Is the tandem good enough to finally bring the Cup home? Eh, it might not instill that kind of confidence, but the situation could be worse. Consider the Flyers out of crisis mode, but far from finished addressing the position for the foreseeable future.
Flyers Buy the Insurance on Emery, Sign Danis
The Flyers also announced signing free-agent Yann Danis to a one-year deal. It’s a two-way contract, and Danis will begin the season with Adirondack.
Danis was signed strictly for depth. With Brian Boucher out of the picture, they needed another netminder for the Phantoms, and in case either Emery or Mason gets injured. According to Flyers Insider Anthony SanFilippo, 2012 second-round pick Anthony Stolarz will not start next season in the AHL.
Danis, 32, has played 53 career NHL games dating back to 04-05, going 17-21 with a .910 SV% and 2.75 GAA lifetime. Last season he was 26-15-6, .911, 2.57 for Edmonton’s AHL affiliate. He appeared in three games for the Oilers in 2013, going 1-0 with, .881, 3.82.
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