Hextall: Flyers' goalie competition 'a good thing'

Hextall: Flyers' goalie competition 'a good thing'
September 9, 2013, 9:00 am
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Assistant GM Ron Hextall said the competition between Ray Emery and Steve Mason for the Flyers' starting goalie job is "a good thing." (AP)

VOORHEES, N.J. – The expensive workhorse goalie obviously didn’t work out.

And so this year, the Flyers will rely on a rather cheap goaltender tandem instead of counting on one netminder to eat up a bulk of the work.

New assistant general manager (and former Flyers goalie himself) Ron Hextall couldn’t be happier about it.

“I think it’s a good thing,” Hextall said. “In-house competition is good.”

The Flyers bought out what remained of Ilya Bryzgalov’s nine-year, $51 million contract this summer, clearing the way to sign free agent Ray Emery, who will team up with Steve Mason, whom the team acquired at last season’s trade deadline.

Mason is 25. Emery is 30. Neither one was brought to Philadelphia to be the team’s starter. They were paired up with the intent to duke it out.

“I think you look at the two guys, and to be asked how much they’re going to play, that’s Lavy’s [coach Peter Laviolette’s] question partly,” Hextall said. “But the biggest part of it’s the goaltenders’ question: Who’s going to take the ball and be consistent and play at the level they’re capable of playing?”

In total, the Flyers are spending a paltry $3.15 million on goaltending. That’s less than any other team in the league.

But dig a little deeper, and the Flyers are actually taking a smart, calculated risk in net. Yes, both Mason and Emery came cheap – but there are specific reasons for it. Emery, for instance, signed for just one year. If he’s able to put in a successful season, he is sure to earn a significant raise for 2014-15, wherever he plays.

Mason, who won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in 2009 with the Columbus Blue Jackets, is coming off a couple of rough seasons, but the Flyers believe they can help him turn around his game.

His contract, too, will expire at the end of this season.

“With [Steve] Mason, you’ve got a young guy who’s had a lot of good times in the league and some not-so-good times,” Hextall said. “But the ability’s there. It’s just about getting the balance and the consistency in his game. He’s got a lot of ability.

I think Emery’s obviously an older guy, a more proven guy. A guy that’s done it, had a phenomenal year last year. So it’s going to be interesting.”

There’s no plan for who will start which games. Judging from Laviolette’s past, it’s simply going to be a matter of who’s hot at any given time.

“It’s up to those two guys to fight it out and see who gains most of the ice,” Hextall said.