The Flyers got their goaltender.
The Flyers have agreed to a one-year, $1.65 million deal with free agent Ray Emery.
Emery, 30, was the top free agent goaltender available. He was a sparkling 17-1-0 with a 1.94 goals against-average and .922 save percentage.
Emery’s signing is a remarkable coup for the Flyers, who believed internally as recently as Wednesday that the free agent was close to a deal to remain with the Blackhawks. He was comfortable as Cory Crawford’s backup on the Cup-winning Hawks, and he was also due a raise given his solid performance in net.
Emery earned $1.15 million last season.
Apparently, the lure of challenging Steve Mason for the starting job with the Flyers was too much to pass up.
So, too, was the chance to return to Philadelphia. It was Paul Holmgren who gave Emery his first, second-chance in the NHL, bringing him back from exile in Russia to sign a one-year deal in 2009.
Emery earned $1.5 million with the Flyers in 2009-10, but the experiment was short-lived. After just 29 games in a Flyers uniform, Emery was diagnosed with avascular necrosis of the hip, the same degenerative condition which prematurely ended Bo Jackson’s two-sport pro career.
Emery underwent a career-threatening, six-hour surgery in March of 2010, with doctors removing a healthy bone from his fibula and placing it in his hip. The road to recovery was long and painful.
Anaheim took a chance on Emery in January 2011, signing him to a pro-rated $500,000 deal. He impressed enough to earn a one-way, $600,000 deal with Chicago that next summer. That summer, though, his first choice was to sign with the Flyers, who were also looking for a goaltender. The feeling was mutual, with Emery having earned a ton of respect for the way he carried himself in his brief stint with the Flyers.
But that’s when the Flyers decided to sign Ilya Bryzgalov to his 9-year, $51 million deal.
Two years later, Bryzgalov is gone. And with his flexibility, athleticism and range of motion back completely, his comeback has come full circle in Philadelphia.
Signing Emery to a low-risk, high-reward deal represents a shift in philosophy back to the days of when he was first a Flyer. The Flyers had historically not spent a ton of money on goaltending prior to Bryzgalov. Now, they know what it feels like to spend more than most and not experience success. The thinking was that the Flyers could get near the same statistical performance as Bryzgalov without spending nearly as much on both goaltenders, which would allow better salary allocation to make the overall team, and thus, the goaltender better.
With both Emery and Mason in the fold and competing for time in net, the Flyers are likely to have the lowest total salary cap hit ($3.15 million) for goaltenders in the league next season. Exactly 22 teams already spend the equivalent on one goaltender.
So far, only Toronto and Boston have less allocated to their netminders, and that’s because both Tuukka Rask and Jonathan Bernier are restricted free agents.
For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers