As the NHL offseason unfolded, the Philadelphia Flyers, to few people’s surprises, were active on almost all fronts.
The squad finally parted ways with the often outspoken Ilya Bryzgalov as well as aging fan favorite Danny Briere. With their roughly combined $12 million cap hits off the books, general manager Paul Holmgren saw those funds as openings for a couple of interesting decisions.
It began with the trading for the rights of former New York Islander captain Mark Streit, who at age 35 will be seen as the new quarterback of the Flyers’ power play. Holmgren agreed to terms with Streit on a four-year deal at an average annual value of $5.25 million on June 17th.
Having already paid 38-year-old Kimmo Timonen $6 million to keep him in orange and black for one more season, Holmgren had to get creative with other moves.
In turn, Holmgren signed recently bought out center Vincent Lecavalier. At the time of the signing, it seemed that the five-year, $22.5 million price tag on Lecavalier was a touch on the steep side for the 33-year old.
However, given the hearty July 5th signings of Ryane Clowe (NJ, 5 years, $24.25M), Stephen Weiss (DET, 5 years, $24.5M), and Valtteri Filppula (TB, 5 years, $25M), it seems as though Holmgren actually was able to swing a bargain for the former Stanley Cup champion and first overall pick in the 1998 draft.
Of course, when it comes to the Flyers, the question always comes down to the city’s notorious black hole position: goaltender. Clearly, a big-ticket goalie was not going to be the choice given the disastrous Bryzgalov experiment.
As rumored names like Jonathan Bernier, Jaroslav Halak, and even Roberto Luongo began to circulate around Philadelphia media and bloggers, Holmgren instead turned to a familiar face from the Flyers’ past.
Will Emery Have an Edge in the Flyers’ Net?
When the Flyers signed Emery in 2009, the move was met with scrutiny. The former Ottawa Senator and integral member of the 2007 East championship team had trouble regaining his NHL form the next season and by 2008, he made the leap to the KHL.
While in Russia, Emery received more attention for his noted temper, in particular with a trainer. While the Flyers only gave him a one-year deal, it was seen as risky considering his leave and anger issues.
While Emery’s play was neither stellar nor terrible, it was the injury bug that ate away at his effectiveness. After recurring groin and hip issues, the goaltender was diagnosed with avascular necrosis. The disease eats away at bone tissue as blood supply is interrupted.
Many thought Emery had played his final game in the league, but less than two years after receiving the bleak diagnosis, he had played his way to a job with the Anaheim Ducks. His 7-2 record in ten games showed flashes of the goalie who led Ottawa to the Final in 2007.
The Blackhawks were next in line for the veteran. After a solid 15-9-4 campaign in 2011-2012, Emery showed his value to a greater extent for the Stanley Cup champions this season. His 17-1 record surely would have made him the number one in just about any other city, but with Corey Crawford excelling, Emery had the best seat in the house as he captured his first Stanley Cup.
Four years later, Emery’s career journey has come full circle, as the Flyers again signed him to a one-year deal, this time worth $1.65 million. This time, though, Emery is seen as a safer option as opposed to Tim Thomas, an outspoken goaltender who, like Emery in 2009, has been out of the NHL for a year.
More importantly, the Flyers now have two goaltenders equally hungry to win a starting job they had earlier in their careers. Steve Mason showed flashes of his Calder Trophy winning form in his first months as a Flyer, while Emery looks to earn his way back into a starting role for the first time since his first stint in Philadelphia.
If healthy competition plays out, the two players’ combined cap hit of just over $3 million is a sight for happy eyes as opposed to what would have been a $5.6 million cap hit for Bryzgalov.
Because of those savings in the nets and up front, it also paved the way for the Flyers to re-sign their captain, Claude Giroux, to an eight-year extension.
But of course, this is Philadelphia, where if your name is not Bernie Parent, your career seems destined for danger. If nothing else, though, the Flyers finally are taking some bargain buys.