Ray Emery on return to Chicago: I am 'past that'

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Ray Emery on return to Chicago: I am 'past that'

OTTAWA, Ontario -- Ray Emery has been through it before: Play in one city, establish yourself, go to another, do the same.

It’s always a little odd coming back.

This time, it’s different. When Emery got to Chicago late Monday night after the Flyers' shootout loss to the Senators, he was coming back as a hero -- a guy who helped Chicago win a Stanley Cup last season thanks to his sensational play in the first half of the season.

“Yeah, I stay in touch with the guys,” Emery said. “I love the city. We had a good season last year. A game is a game, and you want to focus on that game. You appreciate the year and with a championship season, you have time to celebrate that during the summer, and I am kind of past that and want to do well here.”

Emery will be in goal Wednesday against the Blackhawks as the Flyers close out a 12-day, six-game road trip.

“I’ve played for a few teams before,” Emery said. “Here in Ottawa and Philly and Chicago. I try to stay focused on my season and where I am at at that point and not look too far.”

Will it hit him actually being back?

“Ah, not so much,” Emery said. “Back in the day, coming back here and playing Ottawa, it was a bit different for me because that was the team I started out with. I was there for a while. I was there for a couple years. Winning a championship in Chicago was a great experience. But yeah, I loved playing there in Chicago. It was a unique experience to win a Cup. And a really good team. That novelty kind of wears off after playing for a few teams.”

He’s had three shots at a Cup and won one. First in Ottawa in 2007 when the Senators lost to Anaheim. Then as a Flyer in 2010 when Peter Laviolette’s club lost to the Hawks.

He thought that Philly would likely be his last chance at a Cup, especially given his hip injury that would see him play just 10 NHL games the next year in Anaheim.

Emery became a Masterton Trophy finalist for his remarkable comeback that saved his career, which allowed him to sign with Chicago in July 2011.

And then … another shot at the Cup last spring.

“Yeah, I was definitely fortunate to get there,” he said. “What the role or what team you are with, to make the Stanley Cup Final, it’s a pretty exciting year. So, when we made it in Chicago I was definitely excited. I was happy, fortunate or whatever you want to call it, that we finally got it. It was the third time around." 

Emery said when you win a Cup there is a special connection with teammates that never goes away. His connection was bolstered by attending a couple of weddings with the Hawks last year.

“The age group where guys were at,” he said. “A lot of guys were on the same page as far as where their lives were going, as well. I definitely felt that.”

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.