Is Emery the best NHL signing this offseason?

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Is Emery the best NHL signing this offseason?

Ray Emery may be the top offseason acquisition this summer.

No, not just the Flyers' best free-agent find.

The best free-agent signing of any team.

Disregard the organization, the player and the circumstances for a moment. Acquiring a goaltender who posted eye-popping numbers this previous season -- 17-1-0 record, 1.94 goals-against average and .922 save percentage -- and you’ve instantly solidified your goaltending position. Throw in the bargain-bin price tag of $1.65 million and Emery is an absolute steal.

Three years ago, Emery 1.0 was a Flyers experiment on a one-year, $1.5 million deal. Emery had spent the 2008-09 season in the KHL as he attempted to repair his reputation that cost him his job in Ottawa. Excessive tardiness and temperamental behavior forced Senators general manager Bryan Murray to seek a trade, but there were no takers for a hot-headed prima donna goaltender. Emery was eventually waived.

With the Flyers in 2009-10, Emery posted respectable, but not overly impressive numbers in 29 games. However, the team around him was in turmoil. John Stevens was fired in December and replaced with Peter Laviolette. Emery was the one calm in the Flyers' stormy season until he suffered a hip injury that was eventually diagnosed as Avascular Necrosis, the same injury that claimed Bo Jackson’s football career. Many believed Emery would have a tough time walking again and only Emery believed he would play hockey again.

“I'm fortunate to the organization because of the diligence they put into finding the best surgery," Emery said last Friday. "I mean, that's kind of an experimental surgery and every year it just keeps getting better and better. And for them to put that much effort into ... they flew me all over the place to look for doctors and all that. So coming back, especially after how things went, it's real special for me to get a chance to play for them and hopefully do well in the situation just from that effort that they put into saving my hip and allowing me to play.”

A hip doctor saved Emery's career after removing more than five inches of bone in his hip. Not long after Emery’s surgery, the Flyers went on their remarkable playoff run. Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton proved an unlikely tandem could lead a team to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, and because of that, Paul Holmgren felt compelled to re-sign Leighton for two more years. After all, it was as close as the Flyers had come to drinking from Lord Stanley’s Cup since 1987. Holmgren to this day can only wonder what if.

“Everyone remembers our goaltending situation after that -- who didn’t we have playing net after that? And we went to the Finals," Holmgren said. "If we had Ray Emery that year, who knows? It's easy to look back and say ‘who knows,’ I guess.”

Emery was the forgotten man, and not just in and around the Flyers' crease. It wasn’t until February of 2011 Emery had to prove himself all over again, signing a one-year, two-way contract with the Ducks. By the end of the season, he was Anaheim’s best goaltender. Despite starting and losing to Nashville in six games in the first round of the playoffs, it wasn’t good enough and Emery eventually signed a tryout contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, with whom he spent the past two years.

In a league that hands out long-term deals like business cards at a bankers’ convention, Emery has been forced to play on a series of one-year contracts over the past four years. It wouldn’t be too surprising if Emery’s NHL contracts had a condo rental agreement stapled to the back.

Yet, Emery smiles as if he’s cashing Ilya Bryzgalov’s paychecks, and more importantly, Emery wants to be here.

“I kept good relationships within the team,” Emery said. “I have a lot of friends in the organization -- knowing how classy of an organization it was, knowing how passionate Mr. Snider is, knowing how passionate Paul is.”

When he walks into the Flyers' dressing room this fall, Emery will command the respect of his teammates, something Bryzgalov failed to do during his two seasons in Philadelphia. In his battle to return from that career-threatening injury, Emery was a 2011 finalist for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, awarded annually to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to the game of hockey. His former teammate, Ian Laperriere, won the Masterton that year after dealing with post-concussion symptoms, the result of taking a slap shot to the face.

“He (Emery) had baggage coming from Ottawa, but when I played with him he was a great teammate, and I don’t see any problem,” Laperriere said during the team’s prospect camp. “I’m pumped he’s back and he’s pumped. He’s just excited to come here and he feels as if there’s unfinished business here.”

It should be a perfect fit. Two goalies working on one-year contracts out to prove they have the ability to be a No. 1 again in this league. Between Emery and Steve Mason, they’re oozing incentive. Goaltending may very well be the Flyers' strength this season.

Perhaps Emery will dig up that mask he wore three years ago with the Flyers -- the one that depicted legendary Philly boxers Bernard Hopkins and Smokin’ Joe Frazier. An avid fan of the sport, Emery is a proven fighter, battling to stay in the league, having picked himself off the canvas when many people had counted him out.

There’s another Rocky story in the works here, even if the big, bad Russian has already walked away with all the prize money.

Dave Hakstol: Travis Konecny on 4th line 'makes sense in a lot of respects'

Dave Hakstol: Travis Konecny on 4th line 'makes sense in a lot of respects'

PITTSBURGH -- The curious line juggling of Travis Konecny continued Sunday night.

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol again started Konecny on Pierre-Edouard Bellemare's fourth line with Chris VandeVelde, but just as he did in Columbus, Hakstol moved the rookie around.

This was Konecny's third straight game off Valtteri Filppula's unit with Jakub Voracek at the start. The obvious message to Konecny seems to be: Get yourself into a more defensive-minded role early and then let the offense come to you.

Konecny has made some defensive strides.

"It makes sense in a lot of respects," Hakstol said of the move to Bellemare's unit. "He's playing with two players with a lot of structure. He excels in that type of setting.

"If you look at [Saturday], he can bounce around the lineup with different lines and we used him that way. He didn't just play with his two linemates. He moved around a little bit. He's very effective in that role when we're able to get him out there. He gives us a good boost, a good push."

Against Columbus on Saturday, Konecny played on two units with Sean Couturier -- one featuring Jordan Weal and the other, Dale Weise. He also played a few shifts with Filppula and Wayne Simmonds.

The same thing happened Sunday in the Flyers' 6-2 rout of the Penguins (see game story). Konecny finished with an assist and plus-1 in just 8:02. He is one of the very, very few Flyers who is an even. Most are minus.

Konecny, who just turned 20, and Weal, 24, gave the Flyers a lift on Sunday. Weal had a goal and an assist in 13:06.

"No matter who it is contributing, everyone is excited for everybody," Konecny said. "A lot of guys put up some numbers tonight and contributed. It was a good team effort. That's what we want to see."
 
The Flyers were so relaxed it makes you wonder if the pressure of trying to make the playoffs is gone because their odds are so stacked against them.
 
"We’re at that point where you just need to win and just show up," Konecny said. "There's nerves in the back of your mind. We're pretty loose and trying to enjoy it as much as we can going through a stressful time.
 
"We've handled it well. We played a good  team, we knew they would push but we pushed harder."
 
Konecny said he's not fazed by the different line combinations he's a part of, often in the same period.
 
"It's not too bad," he said. "I kind of expected it going into a game. I know when I am playing with Belly and Vandy that throughout the game, there's going to be times like penalty kills come up and he'll fill me in with another line.
 
"At the start of the third [tonight], I filled in another line. I know it's going to come. I just expect it. I've played with pretty much everybody on the team. I'm comfortable out there."
 
Loose pucks
The six goals on the road against Pittsburgh last happened on Feb. 20, 2013, when the Flyers won, 6-5. … Sunday was the Flyers' largest margin of victory in Pittsburgh since March 31, 2003, when they beat the Penguins, 6-1, at Mellon Arena. … Weal picked up the second two-point game of his career -- both of which have taken place this month. … Weise has three goals in his last seven games. … Claude Giroux had two assists, and now has two goals and eight assists for 10 points in 13 games this month.

Future Flyers Report: Merrick Madsen steals the show at NCAA Tournament

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Future Flyers Report: Merrick Madsen steals the show at NCAA Tournament

Before this week begins, it's time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers’ prospects playing in the AHL, overseas and at the junior and college levels.

In this week’s report, we highlight a Flyers goaltender prospect continuing to make waves in the NCAA Tournament over the weekend and much more as the season winds down.

Merrick Madsen, G, 21, 6-5/190, Harvard (NCAA)
Former Flyers general manager and current team president Paul Holmgren deserves a ton of credit for Madsen because the 21-year-old goaltender was a 2013 sixth-round pick and has developed into a legitimate goalie prospect. Last Friday night, Madsen proved again he has a future in professional hockey with a show-stealing 41-save shutout of Providence in Harvard's 3-0 win. He followed that up with another solid performance in net -- 27 saves, including several big ones in the final minutes to preserve a 3-2 win over Air Force on Saturday night to send Harvard to the Frozen Four. Madsen has now won 16 straight games -- a Harvard school record. He surpassed Grant Blair last weekend for the Crimson's single-season win record -- now at 28 victories. He earned the ECAC Tournament's Most Outstanding Player last weekend and also earned all-tournament honors; he's on the all-Ivy League first team, a finalist for the Ken Dryden ECAC Hockey Goaltender of the Year award and a semifinalist for the Mike Richter Award -- NCAA Division I's best goaltender. With the Flyers' goalie situation next season, it's likely Madsen will come back to Harvard for his senior season, but his growth has been exciting to track. He's been excellent all season.

Philippe Myers, D, 20, 6-5/209, Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL)
After finishing the regular season on a seven-point, five-game point streak, Myers exploded for three points in Rouyn-Noranda's 5-4 loss to Halifax in Game 1 on Friday night. The right-handed blueliner registered his first goal of the postseason in the third period with a power-play tally with the Huskies down, 5-2. Myers began the play with the puck before handing it off to Jean-Christophe Beaudin and setting himself up for a one-timer in the circle. He added two assists in in the loss and finished as a plus-one. In Game 2, Myers was held pointless and finished as a minus-1, as Rouyn-Noranda won, 3-2, in overtime. The Huskies and the Mooseheads are now tied 1-1 with Game 3 scheduled for Tuesday night.

Wade Allison, RW, 19, 6-2/205, Western Michigan (NCAA)
Allison's freshman campaign is now over after Western Michigan was bounced from the NCAA Tournament Friday night in a 5-4 loss to Air Force. It was a rough return to the lineup for Allison, too, who finished the game as a minus-4 and received a five-minute major for charging with 1:13 left in the game shortly after WMU made it 5-4. He finished the season tied for fourth on WMU with 29 points -- 12 goals and 17 assists -- in 36 games.

Quick hits
Tanner Laczynski assisted on Ohio State's game-tying goal in the third period Friday night in its 3-2 overtime loss to Minnesota-Duluth. Laczynski finished the season with 32 points in 34 games and never regained his form he had before the world juniors.

• Phantoms defenseman Robert Hagg returned to the lineup Saturday for the first time since March 3. Hagg was a minus-1 with two penalty minutes in his first game back, a 4-0 loss to Wilkes/Barre-Scranton. He sat out Sunday as a healthy scratch as scheduled.

Matej Tomek's sophomore season came to an end, too, over the weekend, as North Dakota was eliminated with a 4-3 double-overtime loss to Boston University. Tomek was a healthy scratch and has played just two games in his collegiate career thus far.

• After missing a lengthy period of time because of a concussion, Taylor Leier added a goal and two assists in four games last week with the Phantoms.

Connor Bunnaman finished as a minus-3 and received a five-minute major for slew footing in Kitchener's 9-1 loss to Owen Sound in Game 1 of their playoff series Friday night. Bunnaman was suspended two games for the incident and missed Game 2 on Saturday. He'll serve the second game Monday night in Game 3 of the best-of-seven game series.

Anthony Salinitri picked up an assist in Sarnia's 9-3 loss to Erie Saturday night in Game 2 of its best-of-seven series. The Sting and Otters are knotted up 1-1. Game 3 is on Monday.

German Rubtsov (upper body) missed Games 1 and 2 of Chicoutimi's series with Victoriaville last weekend. Game 3 is scheduled for Tuesday. Chicoutimi is up 2-0.

Pascal Laberge scored Victoriaville's lone goal in the Tigres' 2-1 loss to the Saguenéens in Game 2 on Saturday night. He had two penalty minutes in a 4-3 loss last Friday.

Samuel Dove-McFalls didn't factor in any of the scoring for Saint John's in its wins vs. Rimouski in Games 1 and 2 over the weekend but did win 63.3 percent of his faceoffs.

• Kelowna's Carsen Twarynski potted two goals and was named the first star in the Rockets' 4-0 win over Kamloops in Game 1 on Friday. He was pointless in Game 2 Saturday.

Carter Hart has Everett tied, 1-1, in its best-of-seven series with Victoria. In Game 1, Hart turned away 30 of 32 shots in a 4-2 win but yielded four goals in a 4-3 loss Saturday night.

Oskar Lindblom picked up an assist on Brynäs IF's game-winning goal over Linkoping in a 1-0 overtime win in Game 4 on Friday. He had just one point in four playoff games last week. Brynäs leads the best-of-seven series, 3-2.