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Holmgren excited about Flyers' goalie situation

by Adam Kimelman
It's not often a team with serious Stanley Cup hopes changes both its goaltenders in one offseason, but that's the gamble the Philadelphia Flyers have taken.

In come Ray Emery and Brian Boucher, as Martin Biron and Antero Niittymaki were allowed to leave as free agents.

Following a one-season exile to Russia, Emery signed a one-year contract in June; Boucher, the Flyers' first-round pick in 1995, signed a two-year deal July 1.

The moves were seen by some as financially motivated. Combined, Emery ($1.5 million) and Boucher ($925,000) will cost $1 million less than the $3.5 million Biron alone made last season.

Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren doesn't dispute the club's salary-cap situation entered into the equation, but he believes he's upgraded his club.

"We believe we have a good tandem there," Holmgren told "I'm happy with our goaltending situation right now. We have two motivated guys, both work hard and both feel like they have something to prove."

None more than Emery, who went from leading the Ottawa Senators to the 2007 Stanley Cup Final to getting into a fight with a trainer during a game in January in the Kontinental Hockey League.

Holmgren said he's spent enough time with Emery to be convinced the signing is more of a calculated risk than an all-in gamble.

"He's a good guy, he just went down the wrong road for a time," Holmgren said. "He realizes now he's got an opportunity to come back and do good things."

If Emery plays like the goaltender from the 2006-07 season, Holmgren will have found the steal of the summer. That season, Emery went 33-16-6 with five shutouts and a 2.47 goals-against average, and then had three shutouts and a 2.06 GAA in 20 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Offseason wrist surgery delayed the start to his 2007-08 season, however, and a number of on- and off-ice transgressions led the Senators to buy out the final two years of the three-year deal he signed after the 2007 Final.

Emery signed with Atlant Mytischi last summer and went 22-8-0 with a 2.12 GAA. Holmgren said he started talking to Emery's agent in February, and feels comfortable enough to risk his team's contending status on Emery returning to his previous form.

"He realizes what led to his banishment, being put in a situation where he didn't have any options other than go to Russia,"  Holmgren said. "Now he's back in the NHL, in a good organization, and he realizes what's at stake. I think he's going to be a highly motivated individual.

"I don't view it as a risk. I don't even think about it anymore. We did our homework, spent a great deal of time with him ... I'm excited to see how it's going to work. I think it's going to be great."

If Emery needs guidance for how to rebuild a reputation, he doesn't have to look much further than Boucher. After the Flyers were eliminated in the first round of the 2002 playoffs, Boucher -- a promising third-year veteran seen as the Flyers' future in goal -- publicly ripped coach Bill Barber, was traded that summer and his play spiraled down. Prior to the 22 games he played last season in San Jose -- most of which came when Evgeni Nabokov was hurt -- he had played just 37 NHL games with five different teams since the lockout.

"Brian is a good kid," Holmgren said of the 32-year-old native of Woonsocket, R.I. "He's got a nice young family now. I think he's another highly motivated individual that wants to be part of a good team and recognizes the role he's in. He's going to get the opportunity to play more games than he has the last couple years."

Contact Adam Kimelman at

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