Goaltender Ray Emery got the start between the pipes on Thursday night against the visiting Carolina Hurricanes in what may end up being his last game in a Philadelphia Flyers uniform. The pending free agent took the loss after giving up two goals on 26 shots and was outplayed by counterpart Cam Ward.
With starter Steve Mason expected to start the season finale against the red-hot Ottawa Senators on Saturday, Emery likely will finish the 2014-15 campaign with a 10-11-7 record, a 3.06 goals against average and a .894 save percentage.
While Emery has been a serviceable relief goaltender, there is no question that his skills are beginning to fade. He doesn’t have the lateral movement in the crease that he once had and his latest two-year stint with the Flyers will likely end without him matching his output from his days as Corey Crawford’s backup (although the team in front of him has not been nearly as good).
Emery’s contract is manageable and if he agrees to similar terms, General Manager Ron Hextall could conceivably opt to re-sign the 32-year-old as there are no other goaltenders under contract that would be a suitable NHL backup for an 82-game season. Rob Zepp was utilized numerous times this year as an injury replacement and performed well, however, he is in need of a new contract as too and his task was to play meaningful minutes for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms as top goalie prospect Anthony Stolarz learned the ropes. Stolarz needs more seasoning in the American Hockey League and thus will not be a candidate to backup Mason.
If the Flyers decide to let Emery leave, there are a handful of low-cost free agent goaltenders they could target including:
- Thomas Greiss
- Anders Lindback
- Curtis McElhinney
- Jhonas Enroth
Some other potential free agent goaltenders could be Antti Niemi, Karri Ramo and Jonas Gustavsson, but they would command higher salaries and may not make it to free agency.
Regardless of whether Emery leaves via free agency or re-signs, one thing that is certain is that his teammates respect him and he is known as a great locker room guy. This was one of the primary reasons that former General Manager Paul Holmgren brought him back to Philadelphia after his Stanley Cup run with the Blackhawks.
Emery felt as though he had unfinished business in Philadelphia as he went 16-11-1 as the starter in 2009-10 before a diagnosis of avascular necrosis ended his season. While the condition could have been career-ending, it was caught early enough and Emery put in the rehabilitation and effort to get back to the competitive level that he was accustomed to with help from the Flyers. He eventually signed with the Anaheim Ducks and performed well and the rest, as they say, was history.
Emery transformed his game from a hot-headed goaltender with a short fuse to a student of the game that was focused on training and making the best of whatever situations he found himself in. Along with former goaltending coach Jeff Reese, Emery has been instrumental in Steve Mason’s performance as one of the better netminders in the National Hockey League. In the event that Emery has played his final game in orange and black, let’s look back at five of his finer moments in South Philadelphia.
5. EMERY DENIES PANDOLFO IN FRONT (2009)
4. EMERY STONES MALKIN WITH THE PAD (2014)
3. EMERY SHUTS THE DOOR ON A CROSBY BREAKAWAY (2013)
2. EMERY FLASHES THE LEATHER AGAINST DUBINSKY (2013)
1. EMERY TELLS HOLTBY TO “HOLD ON”
Ray Emery may not have played up to expectations during his time in Philadelphia, however, he was the quintessential Flyer; a real Broad Street Bully. His loyalty and support for his teammates and the organization has been unwavering and he will be missed in the locker room and on the ice if he does wind up leaving via free agency in July.
What would you do with the Flyers backup goalie position for next year and possibly beyond? Let me know in the comments and/or on twitter @healedbyhockey