Sunday, December 28, 2014

Emery signing a plus only if it leads to a quality defenseman

Goalie Ray Emery was articulate and honest - and didn’t throw a single punch at Flyers trainer Jim McCrossin when he was introduced at Wednesday’s news conference in Voorhees.

Emery signing a plus only if it leads to a quality defenseman

Goalie Ray Emery was articulate and honest - and didn’t throw a single punch at Flyers trainer Jim McCrossin when he was introduced at Wednesday’s news conference in Voorhees.

OK, that was a cheap shot. But when you come with Emery’s baggage, you expose yourself to all types of criticism.

That said, Emery could emerge as the bargain of the year.

The Flyers announced Wednesday they had agreed to a one-year deal with the 6-foot-2, 196-pound Emery. The deal is for $1.5 million, and if Emery returns to his 2006-07 form - he led Ottawa to the Stanley Cup Finals - the Flyers will be feeling very good about themselves.

Though I was in favor of re-signing Marty Biron, I like this move - if it enables the Flyers to sign Jay Bouwmeester or Mike Komisarek, a pair of defensemen who can become free agents on July 1.

It would have taken about $3.5 million to $4 million a year to re-sign Biron. So the Flyers’ savings, coupled with some other cost-cutting moves (a trade of Joffrey Lupul?), could help the club improve its defense in the free-agent market.

In the playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Biron was not the reason the Flyers lost in six games. The Flyers’ defense and Jeff Carter’s scoring slump were bigger factors.

Emery, of course, has had a long list of off-the-ice problems, including an altercation with a Russian trainer in late January. There were also fights with Ottawa teammates, missed practices, suspensions and, oh, about 30 driving violations.

But he seemed contrite on Wednesday, seemed genuinely sincere about re-inventing himself after being, in effect, exiled from the NHL and sent to Russia.

He will add some fire to a laid-back locker room, and he should be more physical in scrambles around the net - a Biron shortcoming in the Game 6 loss to Pittsburgh.

The addition of Emery is a win-win situation for the team and the goalie, said Peter Luukko, the Comcast-Spectacor president.

“I think it’s a pretty good formula when you have a hungry young man who wants to prove himself,” Luukko said.

Emery, whose heavy partying became a part of his identity in Ottawa, vowed that his off-ice conduct will be much improved.

“At the same time, I’m not saying I’m not going to be a fiery guy,” he said. “I play hockey. I throw it out there. Like I said, I know I have the opportunity and I’m not going to do anything to jeopardize that or make people who are giving me this opportunity look bad.”

One of those people is John Paddock, who coached Emery during his tumultuous time in Ottawa and is now the Phantoms' coach.

Paddock recommended that the Flyers sign Emery.

Emery said he wishes he would reverse his final season in Ottawa in 2007-08.

“I didn’t have a great work ethic at the start of the year,” he admitted. “I came in out of shape and wasn’t willing to work like I had in the past. I made a lot of mistakes, but I know this is a last chance for me. I have that knowledge of that past and I’m getting a shot to correct those things.”

Coach John Stevens recently spent several hours with Emery and said he was impressed with the goalie’s makeup.

“He admits he made mistakes and now he’s ready to move on and make amends _ and we’re glad he’s going to do it here,” Stevens said.

On paper, Emery and Biron are about equal. But if signing Emery frees cap space that helps the Flyers land a top-notch defenseman, it will be a move that was worth the risk.

The next move is up to general manager Paul Holmgren.

* * * * * * *

Holmgren seemed upbeat about the possibility of re-signing potential free-agent Mike Knuble….Holmgren also said Antero Niittymaki’s hip injury is not as bad as first feared. There is still a chance that Nitty, a potential free agent, will re-sign with the Flyers and be Emery’s backup....For what it's worth, Emery said he scored over 1,300 on his SAT.

Sam Carchidi Inquirer Staff Writer
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Sam Carchidi Inquirer Staff Writer
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