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Emery gets second chance in Philadelphia

Wednesday, 06.10.2009 / 1:19 PM / News

By John McGourty - NHL.com Staff Writer

The signing of goaltender Ray Emery is a fine gamble by the Flyers, and one that can pay off in fantasy as well. Putting all of Emery's previous transgressions aside, he is 31 games over .500 for his career and has a winning record in the postseason (18-12).

Much has been made of Emery's athleticism, and at 6-foot-2 and 196 pounds, he's among the biggest netminders in the League. He will turn 27 toward the end of training camp.
 
There's no way to translate Emery's Russian league success to the NHL, but it's not as if he's been gone from North America for so long that he's not familiar with the players. His fiery nature appears a perfect match for the Flyers in the ultra-competitive Atlantic Division.

Philadelphia was one of the highest-scoring teams this past season. With plenty of offensive support -- and a change of scenery -- Emery could be in line for his second-career 30-win season, especially with no proven backup on the Flyers at the moment.

-- Rocky Bonanno
The Philadelphia Flyers announced Wednesday they have agreed to terms on a one-year contract with former Ottawa Senators goaltender Ray Emery.

Per team policy, financial terms were not disclosed. However, multiple media outlets reported that the deal is worth $1.5 million.

"Ray is a goaltender that we have followed very closely over the last number of years, since he turned pro," Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren said during a news conference. "We spent a lot of time watching him when he was in Ottawa and when he was with Binghamton (AHL), playing against the (Philadelphia) Phantoms, and his rise to an NHL goaltender in Ottawa, taking his team to the Stanley Cup Final in 2007, the series that Anaheim won.

"We've liked Ray's competitiveness as a goaltender, his athleticism as a goaltender, his size and his technique, and we think, at this time, he's an ideal fit on our team. We look forward to many years of a really good relationship with Ray."

The Senators bought out the final two years of Emery's contract last June, and he played this season with Atlant Mytischy of the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia. He went 22-8 for the Moscow-based team, posting a 2.12 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage.

Those numbers are significantly better than the 2.71 GAA and .907 save percentage Emery posted in 134 NHL games for the Senators over parts of five seasons.

In 2005-06, his first full NHL season, he went 23-11-4 in 39 games; 33-16-6 in 58 games in 2006-07; and 12-13-4 in 31 games in 2007-08.

In 2006-07, his only season as Ottawa's undisputed No. 1 goalie, 2006-07, he was 33-16-6 with a 2.47 GAA and .918 save percentage. He then went 13-7 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 2.26 GAA and .907 save percentage as the Senators reached the Final before losing to Anaheim in five games.

Offseason wrist surgery led to Emery reporting to training camp the following season out of shape. He lost his starting job to Martin Gerber and had a number of on- and off-ice incidents that led to the Senators dismissing him with two years remaining on the three-year deal he had signed in 2007.

"I'm just happy to be here. It's exciting today for me," Emery said. "As far as the negative questions and the way things ended in Ottawa, for the most part I had a great time in Ottawa and we had a good team. In the last year I was there things took a turn for the worse. (There are) a lot of things I wish I could have changed about my last year there, but that being said, I can definitely say I've learned more from the bad experiences, maybe more than from the good times we had there.

"I went through a lot in the last year, two years or so. I realize I had a great thing going there and lost a lot of people that I enjoyed hanging out with on a daily basis. I want to get back to having those good relationships and enjoying my workplace and the sport because it's a great position to have, a great job to be in. That's the reason I'm going to change, because I realize that those good things are far and away more important than the mistakes I decided to make in my last year there."

Holmgren and Emery said they had met several times for discussions, and Emery also met with Flyers chairman Ed Snider.

"They definitely wanted to see where I was at and I'm sure ask a lot of the same questions you guys (the media) have today," Emery said. "I guess they were confident enough that I was past some of those things they had questions about and that I could contribute to the team.

"I really appreciate the opportunity I'm being given here. I've lost that opportunity once before so I have that in the back of my head before I do anything. When I wake up in the morning, that's what I'm thinking about -- that I have that opportunity and I'm not going to let anything get in the way of that. At the same time, I'm not going to say that I'm not going to be a fiery guy. I play hockey and I throw everything out there."

Emery had a few publicized incidents in Russia last season. Video emerged of Emery scuffling on the bench with a team doctor who tried to put a sponsor's hat on him after he had been removed from a game. Later, he refused to play for the team when he learned he'd be earning substantially less than he signed for due to currency fluctuations. He backed down from that position and finished the season. He has a year remaining on his Russian contract but reportedly has an escape clause if he signs with an NHL team.

"Russia was a better experience than I thought it was going to be," Emery said. "I was nervous going there. I had heard some good things, but I had heard a lot of negatives about it. The hockey wasn't up to par with the NHL, but it was competitive hockey and it was kind of a learning experience for me. I worked on different parts of my game because that style of game isn't what I do best.

"It was great for me. It kind of got me away from this kind of situation, which was a good thing for me, what I needed at the time. I missed the NHL and the competitive games every night. I missed that challenge. We live a really good life over here -- family, friends, things like that away from the game. I missed that as well, so it was a no-brainer for me to come back when I had the opportunity."

Calling the Flyers "a Stanley Cup-contending team," Emery said that "any goalie in the world would consider himself lucky. That's not a bad situation to be in."

Emery, 27, comes at a substantial discount as compared to current Flyers goalie Martin Biron, who earned $3.5 million last season and was said to be asking for more in a multi-year deal.

Biron, 31, and Antero Niittymaki, 28, the Flyers' goaltenders last season, will become unrestricted free agents July 1. Also, Scott Munroe, 24, who was the starter with the team's AHL affiliate, will be a free agent.

The front-runner to back up Emery could be Johan Backlund, 28, who the Flyers signed to a one-year contract in March. Backlund had spent the past three seasons with Timra IK in the Swedish Elite League.

Also under contract for the Flyers are veteran Jean-Sebastien Aubin, who spent the season as Munroe's backup in the minors; Michael Teslak, who played six AHL games while spending most of the season in the ECHL; and 2005 fourth-round pick Jeremy Duchesne, who spent all season in the ECHL.


Quote of the Day

It's always a little bit weird, but it moves on. They've got a good team, and they played well tonight. I think that's just part of it.

— Peter Laviolette on facing his former team (Flyers) for the first time since his departure