Whew, that was good – Ray Emery and what-should-be the 2013-14 Flyers

Ray Emery returns to the Flyers on a 1-year, $1.65M contract.
By Leech44, via Wikimedia Commons

There’s really nothing quite like the first day of NHL free agency.

Over the course of hours, the market is depleted. Twitter is abuzz with insane rumors, signings, and drama as teams try to sure up their 2013 rosters before they run out of options.

The buildup is massive. Even at the draft, groundwork is laid for what amounts to a real-world NHL fantasy draft.

The day is usually something of a marathon. Players sign intermittently throughout until about dusk, then all the intensity, passion, and emotion dissipate, leaving just reflection.

By the time I woke up Friday, news was breaking that Ray Emery was on the verge of signing in Philadelphia again.

That was it. The Flyers were done in about 30 seconds.

I hope it was as good for you as it was for me.

I’ve taken up space on this site last week stating my desire to work around the team in place.

I’m writing this 15 hours after free agency started, but it might as well have been a week ago. Sean Couturier is going to remain a Flyer. Brayden Schenn will be wearing Orange and Black.

Really, the only possible major shakeup would involve Braydon Coburn, which is looking less and less likely as the Edmonton Oilers, reportedly Coburn’s most aggressive suitor, still have eight defensemen signed for this season and just inked Andrew Ference to too much money over too many years (a common theme on Friday).

The allure of trading Coburn, an established top-four defenseman, is that he would bring something substantial back. Nick Grossmann or Andrej Meszaros would essentially amount to glorified salary dumps. If Coburn’s market really is shrinking, as it appears to be, it more sense to keep him around.

Really, the lack of activity all started with their one signing. Emery signed for cheap, the cap outlook for next year is a little brighter, and that’s that. We probably have a good idea of what this team will be.

Emery, 31, had a .922 save percentage in 21 games – 19 starts – last season. Since returning from what looked like a career-ending hip injury in 2010, Emery has posted a .911 save percentage in 65 games between Anaheim and Chicago.

That’s not a massive sample size, but, if he would post that number for the $1.65 million he’ll get for next season, he’s a bargain.

For context, Ilya Bryzgalov had a .905 save percentage in Orange and Black, so it’s reasonable to think Emery will at least be comparable at a fraction of the price. If not, Steve Mason has shown flashes. He’s probably terrible, but he’s had some nice runs. Ya never know.

Besides Emery, another option was Evgeni Nobokov. He received $3.25 million from the Isles for one year. The 37-year-old has a .912 save percentage over the last two seasons since returning from the KHL.

There was also a lot of talk of Tim Thomas, who took last year off and will probably fetch a similar contract to Nabokov. Also, he had all his success in Boston, playing behind Zdeno Chara and company. Even 27-year-old Anton Khudobin came out of nowhere and was stellar as a backup last year. Thomas, now 39, similarly rose from anonymity in Boston. I’m skeptical.

The Flyers’ other options would be via trade. It’s difficult to comment on those situations. What was the market like? Jaroslav Halak would be nice, but at what cost?

Emery, making next to nothing for a primary or even part-time goalie, doesn’t cost the Flyers any assets and will help the Flyers get under the cap.

The Lines:

1. Hartnell/Giroux/Voracek

2. Schenn/Lecavalier/Simmonds

3. McGinn/Couturier/Read

4. Talbot/Hall/Rinaldo

Thanks to Emery and his low salary, this is coming closer to reality. The top three lines should all be more than capable offensively. The fourth line should be strong defensively. That’s a very well-rounded group of forwards featuring skill, size, grit, youth, experience – it’s exciting. If Couturier and Schenn take the next step, if Voracek really is a point-per-game guy, Simmonds takes another step, McGinn is as good as he was in a short stint last year…

Okay, let’s calm down now. We’ll talk again in September.

Anyway, Emery has a .908 save percentage for his career. I mentioned that he spent one of his years in Philadelphia in 2009-10, but it doesn’t feel like much of a return even though he was the cheap option then, too.

Emery arrived in 2009 after spending a year in the KHL, but it wasn’t because of a cash grab like other defectors. Emery battled coaches over playing time, drew attention from Ottawa law enforcers for his driving habits, and was asked by Senators general manager Bryan Murray if he had a drug problem.

Even when he got to Russia, Emery fought his team’s trainer in his one-year stay in Russia.

He did have talent. As a 25-year-old, Emery posted a .918 save percentage and was in goal for the Senators’ run to the Cup Finals.

The following season, his save percentage dropped to .890 and, with all of his issues, he was gone. Nobody wanted him. With his career was in doubt, he was forced to go abroad.

The Flyers took a shot on a cheap option in Emery and he was solid in net before suffering that hip injury. That year the Flyers made it to the Cup riding a tandem of Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton. In a lot of ways, Emery disappeared and was forgotten on the Flyers never-ending goaltending carousel, and it seemed his career was pretty close to over.

He had the same injury that changed Bo Jackson’s career. It was questionable if he’d even come back. Even today, Emery still has 13 centimeters of bone missing from his right leg.

But Emery rebounded.  Doctors caught the deterioration early enough and Emery worked his way back to full strength, even if it looked like a long shot whether he’d ever play again.

The Ducks brought in Emery late in the season to a two-way contract. He stood on his head, moved up to the NHL and continued to play well. Even though he didn’t take well to time shares and sitting early in his career, Emery has thrived backing up Jonas Hiller and Corey Crawford.

Now he has another shot to be ‘the guy’ in Philadelphia. No questions regarding his maturity. No questions about his health. Emery, who came into the league with all the potential in the world, just has to show that he can be a competent net minder on what looks like a solid Flyers team. If he does that, he puts himself in a position to be the starter he was always expected to be, and maybe even in Philadelphia. The Flyers do not have a goalie under contract for 2014-15.

When it comes to nuts and bolts, I’m somewhat concerned with Emery’s rebound control without Chris Pronger. Kimmo Timonen, Mark Streit, and Erik Gustafsson will play significant roles this year, and none of them control the crease like the overpowering Pronger. Not many do. Luke Schenn, Coburn, and either Grossmann or Meszaros will be important for their size alone.

If they hold up, Emery could turn into a tremendous bargain for the Flyers. That’s just what they needed on the first day of free agency. At this point, the Flyers’ roster probably can’t get any better unless something unforeseen happens – the less moves the better. I think this team is closer to the results it produced two years ago than those of last year. To add to a young, improving nucleus without losing anything was ideal on such a crucial day.

Free agency might not have lasted long, but it was pretty amazing.

Snap Shots:

– Tim Panaccio tweeted that the Flyers and Simon Gagne agreed on money, but Paul Holmgren later said money was tight and was not as optimistic. Gagne can still play a solid two-way game. Considering he only played 14 minutes a night, 11 points in 27 games as a Flyer is solid. That said, Tye McGinn costs less than 775k for this season. He played less than 13 minutes a night and had five points in 18 games. Oh, and his fancy stats are strong. Give the kid a chance.

– David Clarkson (7 years, $36.75 for a player with one 40-point season), Nathan Horton (7 years, $37.1 mil), Ryan Clowe (5 years, $24.25 mil). As I expected, today’s moves made the Lecavalier deal look very good (that said, the Horton contract is defendable. The other two…aren’t).

– I know I’m jumping the gun a little bit, but the 2014-15 salary cap is going to be crucial for the Flyers. The team currently has $51.5 mil committed to next season in terms of the cap. McGinn, Brayden Schenn and Couturier are restricted free agents. Gustafsson doesn’t yet have a contract for this year. Steve Mason, Emery, Matt Read, Adam Hall, Timonen, Meszaros, and Bruno Gervais are all unrestricted free agents.

Next year’s depth chart without free agents:

Hartnell/Giroux/Voracek

XXXXX/Lecavalier/Simmonds

XXXXX/XXXXX/XXXXX

Talbot/XXXXX/Rinaldo

(Rosehill, Laughton on roster)

XXXXX/L. Schenn

Streit/Coburn

XXXXX/Grossmann

XXXXX

XXXXX

So, yeah. $51.5 mil committed and at least eight open spots in the lineup. Even with Pronger off the books, that’s still about $46.5 mil. Assuming the cap goes back up to $70 mil:

B. Schenn-$3 mil

Couturier-$3 mil

McGinn-$1 mil

Read-$4.5 mil

Hall walks for Laughton

Gustafsson-$1.5 mil

(Gervais walks)

Let’s say they pay the goalies around $5 mil. I can’t imagine them getting away with only paying their goalies a little over $3 mil again.

Oh, and Timonen has to be replaced assuming he actually does retire.

That adds up to $18 mil. That would be under my $70 mil cap with ($69.5 mil) or without Pronger ($64.5 mil). Considering how this is as rough a sketch as possible and it could push that cap harder than I’m anticipating, this could get dicey. That said, the cap could be higher. Things can change. But next year will be interesting for a player like Matt Read, especially when the Flyers look to make improvements.

Posted on July 6, 2013, in Flyers, Nick Carroll, Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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