2013-14 Flyers evaluation: Goaltending

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2013-14 Flyers evaluation: Goaltending

First of three parts, reviewing the Flyers' roster from 2013-14.

Goaltending just might have been the Flyers' greatest overall strength this past season.

It’s what saved them early. It’s what made them competitive down the stretch. It’s what gave them a chance in the playoffs.

The only question the Flyers have about this position going into the summer is whether they will re-sign backup Ray Emery.

If it means anything, Emery received strong vocal support from Steve Mason on breakup day.

“I hope he’s back,” Mason said. “First and foremost, he’s a great person. I think he was a huge part of us coming back this year.

“Myself, having a goaltender partner like Ray, who is extremely supportive, I learned a lot from him. The way he approaches the game -- he’s been through a lot in his career, not just in hockey but life in general. To have an older guy like that as your partner, I’d like to have him back.”

General manager Paul Holmgren has had discussions with Emery’s agent and said he would also like a full medical report before making a decision on a new contract.

There are about a half-dozen UFA goalies in the Flyers' price range if they can’t re-sign Emery.

Ray Emery
Age: Turns 32 in September
Record: 9-12-2
Stats: 1328:25 MIN; 2.96 GAA; .903 SV%
Status: Unrestricted free agent

A very different Emery was signed to a one-year, $1.65 million contract last summer. Different in how he presented himself from several years ago when the Flyers first gave him a try. A more humble, more professional, more mature goalie. Emery’s battle to overcome a career-threatening right hip injury had a lasting impact on him. It changed his outlook on life. Winning the Stanley Cup in Chicago allowed him to validate his career. He gave the Flyers exactly what they required: a reliable, competent, experienced backup. Emery no longer can go post to post -- his only flaw -- like he used to, but he was invaluable in many ways as the backup to Mason. For whatever reason, teammates didn’t give him the goal support he deserved in far too many games this season. Had they, his record would have been much better. He was very composed during key road games down the stretch, which is why coach Craig Berube used him. Holmgren said Emery never had any hip issues this season. Emery deserves to be re-signed, but it’s going to be tied to available cap dollars.

Steve Mason
Age: Turns 26 this month
Record: 33-18-7
Stats: 
3485:36 MIN; 2.50 GAA; .917 SV%
Cap hit: $4.1 million

After several decades of trying to find a young goalie to give the Flyers some longevity in net a la Ron Hextall, it appears the Flyers have finally found their man. Much like Jakub Voracek, Mason came here from Columbus as a project player and needed to give the Flyers a reason to believe. People were excited about the snippet he showed last spring in just seven games. Mason proved those outings were no fluke. He appears to be the real deal and was largely responsible for giving teammates hope early in the season when the club was a mess and trying to claw its way back into the playoff picture when the entire roster couldn’t score goals. Mason outplayed Henrik Lundqvist in the postseason and gave the Flyers every chance to win the series, despite playing through a concussion, which was not a wise decision. He was outstanding at times and came up big in big games. He and Emery found a way to co-exist without jealousy. They were a very good tandem in net. Mason’s new three-year, $12.3 million contract kicks in this coming season. He earned a bargain $1.5 million for 2013-14. 

Next: A look back on the defense.

Flyers free-agent goalie fits: Jonathan Bernier

Flyers free-agent goalie fits: Jonathan Bernier

Each day this week until July 1, the day free agency begins, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone will profile the five best goalie options for the Flyers on the open market and project their likelihood of signing.

Jonathan Bernier
Age: 28
Height: 6-0
Weight: 184
Last team: Anaheim Ducks
2016-17 cap hit: $4.15 million

Scouting report
After being drafted 11th overall in 2006, Bernier was a highly-touted goaltender coming up in the Los Angeles Kings system and performed well in a backup role for five seasons in L.A.

But with Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles, Bernier was blocked from getting a viable opportunity to be a No. 1 with the Kings. In June 2013, they shipped him to Toronto.

Bernier did not capitalize on his opportunity with the Maple Leafs, however. He never established himself as a high-end starting goalie in three seasons despite a strong first year.

In 2013-14, Bernier was 26-19-7 with a 2.68 goals-against average and .923 save percentage with the Leafs but that save percentage continually dropped the next two years.

Toronto decided to cut ties with Bernier after the 2015-16 season and traded him to the Anaheim Ducks for a conditional draft pick. He spent last season backing up John Gibson.

Appearing in 39 games last season for the Ducks, Bernier posted a 21-7-4 record with a 2.50 goals-against average, .915 save percentage and two shutouts.

One note about Bernier: Flyers general manager Ron Hextall was an assistant GM in Los Angeles when the Kings drafted him in 2006, so there is a connection there.

Dougherty's projection
I don’t think Bernier is the best option available for the Flyers but the most likely. Maybe I’m putting too much weight on the Hextall connection here, maybe not. We’ll see.

Bernier fits what the Flyers appear to want in a goalie going forward: a short-term veteran option who can share the net with Michal Neuvirth in a platoon situation.

Hextall isn’t looking for the Flyers’ goalie of the future this summer. He believes he has that in the system already but needs to bide time for Carter Hart and Felix Sandstrom.

But he will be looking for a goalie who he can trust playing around 40 games or more next season and give the team quality in net. In that role, Bernier would be a solid fit.

He hasn’t panned out as projected and we could use him as one example of why we don’t see many goaltenders drafted high in the first round. They’re tough to project.

With that said, Bernier has found success in the past, including last season in Anaheim, in either a platoon or backup situation. He’ll come at a reasonable price, too.

A tandem of Neuvirth-Bernier would not be the worst thing in the world for the Flyers; it wouldn’t be the best, either. I think it would give them enough in net to compete.

If I had to predict which goaltender on the market will be here next season, it is Bernier.

Hall's projection
I see Bernier as one of the least realistic options for the Flyers.
 
The 2006 11th overall pick hasn't quite lived up to the hype, but he still has some cachet, probably too much for the Flyers in this spot.
 
He turns only 29 in August and in a backup role last season, his 2.50 goals-against average and .915 save percentage still ranked in the top 15 among NHL goalies that played 39 games or more.
 
The role and price in which the Flyers will offer shouldn't attract Bernier much. From the sound of Hextall, I expect him to be judicious in adding a goalie. This sounds much more like a stopgap, temporary position than anything future oriented.
 
There's a connection with the Flyers' GM here, but that might be it when it comes to the Bernier scenario.

Paone's projection
I find Bernier to be an intriguing option for the Flyers.

First and foremost, there is plenty of familiarity with Bernier within the Flyers' organization. Hextall and current Flyers goalie coach Kim Dillabaugh were both parts of the Kings' organization when Bernier was drafted in 2006 and worked with him during his development into an NHL goaltender. They not only know the type of player and competitor they'd be getting, they also know the type of person they'd be getting and that plays a role, too.

Bernier had a very strong campaign for the Ducks last season. That certainly makes him an attractive option for the Flyers. He did his best to prove he can be a reliable option again after things soured for him in Toronto. But, hey, a lot of things went sour in Toronto during those times.

But that strong campaign with Anaheim last season will have Bernier wanting opportunity and more of it. With Neuvirth entrenched here, how much opportunity would there actually be for Bernier here? Would the Flyers present the type of opportunity he's looking for after last year's showing with the Ducks? My guess is no. He'll likely want an opportunity to take on much more of a workload.

So while the option is intriguing for many reasons and it certainly isn't out of the realm of possibility, I ultimately feel this is an option both he and the Flyers pass on.

Flyers re-sign defenseman Mark Alt to 1-year, 2-way deal

Flyers re-sign defenseman Mark Alt to 1-year, 2-way deal

One day after extending qualifying offers to seven restricted free agents (see story), the Flyers re-signed Mark Alt, who was unrestricted.

The Phantoms' defenseman agreed to a one-year, two-way deal on Tuesday that will play him $125,000 in the AHL and $650,000 in the NHL.

The 25-year-old has played four years with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. 

He had one goal and 11 points last season in 40 AHL games.

Alt's only NHL appearance was his debut as a Flyer on March 28, 2015, at San Jose.

Alt has 68 points (12 goals) in 237 AHL games.