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Emery excited about second chance in Philadelphia

by Adam Kimelman

Ray Emery left Philadelphia with what he called "a funny taste in his mouth" after the 2009-10 season and saw the opportunity of free agency as a chance for a bit of redemption.

The Flyers on Friday signed the goaltender to a one-year, $1.65 million contract to return to Philadelphia, where he will compete for playing time with Steve Mason.

The move brings Emery back to a place where he spent 29 games during the 2009-10 season. That run ended in February when he sustained a hip injury that later was diagnosed as avascular necrosis and nearly ended his career. Surgery to repair the condition sidelined him for nearly a year.

"I left myself with a funny taste in my mouth with my experience there," Emery said on a conference call Friday. "I'm not saying it wasn't enjoyable, but that I really felt we could have done better, that I really could have done better than what was done there."

He'll get that chance now, after the Flyers used a compliance buyout on last season's starter, Ilya Bryzgalov. That left Mason, who went 4-2-0 in seven games with the Flyers after arriving in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets in April, as the only NHL-caliber goaltender in the organization.

"I skate with Mason in the summer, he's just around the corner from my place here in Toronto," Emery, 30, said. "He's a great young goalie (25), a guy who started off as a Calder winner … and a guy that's had success and he's going to continue to get better. I look at it as a tandem relationship. Last year with me and Corey [Crawford] … it was more about the team's success and we both helped each other get better. As far as I know that's the best way to treat a goaltending relationship. I'm excited to work with him, to teach him what I know about the game, what I've learned about the game. I'm excited to work with a great young goalie."

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said he was excited to get a longer view of Emery in a Philadelphia uniform.

"I certainly have a very strong and positive memory of when Ray played for us," Holmgren said on a separate conference call Friday. "It ended in February in a game in Calgary when he shut out Calgary and the next morning we were in Edmonton and he woke up with a sore hip. Then he went through a difficult surgery and battled his way back. He's been a good player now for two or three years. We're excited to have him back. With Ray and with Steve as our two goalies, we have a good combination in net, a good duo we can go to battle with."

Flyers captain Claude Giroux, who earlier Friday agreed to terms on an eight-year contract extension, played with Emery in Philadelphia during that 2009-10 season, and prior to the official announcement of the signing said he'd welcome the goalie's return.

"I obviously had a chance to play with Emery before and he was a good teammate and great goalie," Giroux said. "It was just too bad he suffered a few injuries when he came to Philly."

Emery showed he was 100 percent in 2012-13 with the Chicago Blackhawks. As the backup to Crawford, he went 17-1-0 in 21 regular-season games, with a 1.94 goals-against average that was third in the League. He and Crawford shared the William Jennings Trophy for being the goalies on the team that allowed the League's fewest goals.

A lower-body injury left Emery injured at the start of the postseason, and by the time he was healthy, Crawford was playing too well to be removed en route to the Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup.

Crawford's strong postseason left Emery with the feeling that a return to the Blackhawks was not going to happen.

"Corey's got one year left there and he's probably going to make $5 million or $6 million for the next little while," Emery said. "I feel like the writing was on the wall in Chicago as far as myself goes. In Philadelphia it would be a new situation for both me and Steve. Going forward it's a chance to maybe play more games than I would have in Chicago. It's a great team; it was a situation that I knew from the last time I was there that I was really comfortable in it."

He said he'll be just as comfortable sharing crease time with Mason.

Emery admitted that's a statement he would not have been able to make earlier in his career. He had a reputation for a short temper during his first few years in the League with the Ottawa Senators, and spent the 2008-09 season playing in Russia after being bought out of his contract by the Senators and being unable to find a deal in the NHL.

"I've changed my outlook," Emery said. "When I was younger I wanted to play all the games and kind of got a pouty attitude when I didn't. You start to realize that if the team is successful, then everyone does well and it's a better working relationship that way. Just a kind of a different philosophy. You learn and you grow and that's where I'm at. It's fun having a great group of guys and everyone gets along well and [you're] sharing success."

Holmgren also said he believed all that Emery has dealt with in his career makes him better equipped to handle a true partnership in net.

"I'm sure with what he went through certainly gave him a great deal of resolve to work his way back to the NHL and perform at the level he's played at," Holmgren said. "We're happy to have him back. I'm really looking forward to it."

In nine NHL seasons with the Senators, Flyers, Anaheim Ducks and Blackhawks, Emery has a record of 126-63-19. In 263 games, he has a 2.63 GAA, .908 save percentage and 14 shutouts.

Philadelphia on Friday also signed goaltender Yann Danis, 32, to a one-year, two-way contract. If Danis plays in the NHL, he'll count $675,000 on the Flyers' salary cap.

Danis played in three NHL games in 2012-13 with the Edmonton Oilers. He spent most of the season with the team's American Hockey League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Barons, going 26-15-6 with a 2.59 GAA and .911 save percentage in 47 games.

He's played 53 NHL games in parts of five seasons with the Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils and Oilers.


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