With new outlook, Ray Emery returns to Flyers

With new outlook, Ray Emery returns to Flyers

July 5, 2013, 12:00 pm
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Ray Emery went 17-1 with a 1.94 goals-against average and .922 save percentage last season. (USA Today Images)

There was a time when Ray Emery played in Ottawa that he felt he had to play every game, had to be the confirmed starter, and didn’t understand the complexities of a goaltending tandem.
 
That was 2005-06 when his partner was Dominik Hasek.
 
Now 30, Emery won a Stanley Cup this season as the backup to Corey Crawford in which he was very much in partnership, though still the No. 2 guy.
 
And Emery handled it brilliantly, which is one big reason why the Flyers signed him Friday to a one-year deal worth $1.65 million to tandem with Steve Mason in goal this season.
 
Emery has the edge to be the No. 1 going into camp based on his experience.
 
“I changed my outlook,” said a more mature Emery on a conference call this afternoon. “When I was younger, I wanted to play all the games, and kinda got a pouty attitude when I didn’t.
 
“You start to realize that if the team is successful, everyone does well. It’s a better working relationship that. It’s a different philosophy.
 
“You learn and you grow. It’s fun to have a great group of guys that learn and get to grow. Especially, sharing success.”
 
Flyers captain Claude Giroux was happy to see Emery return.
 
“I obviously had a chance to play with Emery before and he is an unreal guy,” Giroux said prior to Emery’s signing.
 
“A good teammate and a great goalie. It’s too bad when he came to Philly, he got hurt. If he’s coming to Philly, that would be fun.”
 
Emery appeared in 21 games during the lockout-shortened season with the Hawks with a remarkable 17-1 record, 1.94 goals against average and .922 save percentage.
 
He posted an NHL-record 12 straight wins.
 
Emery and Crawford jockeyed in goal, but the fact was, under coach Joel Quenneville, the job was always Crawford’s to lose and that never happened. Crawford often faced the  tougher opponents.
 
Emery never questioned that he was the back-up even though his numbers were just as good as Crawford. A late-season groin pull locked the starter’s job up for Crawford, who played every game in the playoffs.
 
It will be a fascinating competition in Philly with the 25-year-old Mason, who was brilliant in his own right in seven appearances as a Flyer late in the season.
 
“I’m excited and I haven’t talked in specifics to Homer [general manager Paul Holmgren],” Emery said, adding he lives near Mason in Toronto and has skated with him.
 
“He’s a great young goalie. A guy who started off as a Calder winner … He’s had success and will continue to get better. I look at it as a tandem relationship.
 
“Last year, me and Corey kinda helped each other get better. That’s the best way to treat a goaltending relationship. I’m excited to work with him and teach him what I know about the game.”
 
Mason can help Emery in other ways.
 
“Whatever I learn is usually off the young guys,” Emery said. They’re kinda like the pioneers. You go and watch these young kids, they’re amazing.”
 
It’s easy to see why Emery would be a god fit here, from his viewpoint. He can finally nail down the starter’s job. Uncontested.
 
“Corey has one year left [in Chicago],” Emery said. “He’s probably gonna end up making $5 million or $6 million for the next little while. I feel like the writing was on the wall in Chicago, as far as myself.
 
“In Philadelphia, it would be a new situation for both me and Steve. Going forward it’s a chance to play more games than I would have in Chicago. It’s a great time and a situation I knew, from the last time I was there, I was comfortable in.”
 
Emery remains very close to Flyers assistant coach John Paddock, who coached him in 2007-08 in Ottawa. The quiet and sometimes shy goalie resurrected his NHL career in 2009-10 with the Flyers, after signing here directly from the KHL in Russia.
 
He was 16-11-1 that season in Philly with a 2.64 GAA and .905 save percentage, but developed AVN disease in his right hip in early February, missing the final 22 games of the season.
 
AVN is a debilitating necrosis disease in the hip. That Emery overcame the disease to resume a career as professional athlete against daunting odds, resulted in being Anaheim’s nominee for the 2011 Masterton Trophy. He was a finalist for that award, but the Flyers' Ian Laperriere won it.
 
When the Flyers' Cup run failed, it appeared Emery’s career was over and he wasn’t re-signed.
 
Emery began an arduous comeback with Anaheim the following season, appearing in 10 games before signing on with the Blackhawks as a free agent in late July 2011 where he’s been since.
 
“I understood there was a possibility I might not play again,” Emery said, recalling how it ended as a Flyer, the first time around.  “It was kinda, what was the next step ...
 
“The next step was finding the best doctor, the best procedure. The next step after that was taking care of it. Just getting off crutches, getting out of a hospital bed, one step at a time. You normally get what you want when you look at it that way.”
 
It’s turned out well for him, to say the least.
 
In all now, the Flyers will spend just $3.15 million against the salary cap next year for their two goalies. Mason earns $1.5 million.
 
That’s a huge savings in net from Ilya Bryzgalov, who alone, had a $5.66 million cap hit last season.
 
The new era of WB Mason, err, Emery-Mason, begins this fall.
 
“It’s been a couple of crazy days,” Emery said. “I got wind that [Philly] would be an option. I’m happy to be back …”

Free agent watch
The Flyers are monitoring the situation in St. Louis where defenseman Alex Pietroangelo has not yet accepted his RFA qualifying offer sheet. It would take a lot to pry him from the Blues.

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