The Toronto Marlies, AHL affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs, have signed veteran goaltender Ray Emery to a professional tryout contract (PTO), the team announced on Friday.
The announcement comes the same day that the team announced that de facto starter Garret Sparks would be out with an injury through the holiday break, at a minimum.
In addition to Sparks’s injury, James Reimer is on the shelf and Jonathan Bernier is mired in a slump that has Mike Babcock publicly saying he has no faith in the man who entered the season as the team’s starter.
Emery was rumored, as recently as Thursday, to be on the brink of signing a contract in the KHL. Though it wasn’t for lack of trying to find a North American deal. (And Darren Dreger reports that those talks were falling apart due to immigration delays in getting him over there.)
The 33-year-old netminder didn’t find a new contract over the summer after his deal with the Philadelphia Flyers expired. He took a PTO with the Tampa Bay Lightning when Andrey Vasilevskiy went out with an injury just before training camp, but that didn’t materialize into a contract.
After that he took a tryout with the Ontario Reign of the AHL — affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings — for an extended period of time, but was released from that tryout in early December after playing in just three games with a .878 save percentage.
The PTO being with the Marlies makes sense for Maple Leafs. It gives them an option close at hand without taking up one of their NHL contracts. They may need to see exactly how long they’ll be without Sparks and whether Bernier can turn things around with one more chance being given to him.
They may also find themselves in a position where they give Antoine Bibeau a shot as well.
Should they bring up Bibeau, at least they’ll be able to field a solid goaltender in the AHL, where they have all of their prospects this season, by signing Emery. They’ll definitely want to keep the goaltending solid there, giving the team the chance to make a long run into the postseason and giving guys like William Nylander, Kasperi Kapanen and Connor Brown valuable experience.
— Toronto Marlies (@TorontoMarlies) December 18, 2015
Dustin Nelson is the News Editor for The Hockey Writers. He’s a contributor to Hockey Prospectus, Hockey Wilderness, and writes a column for Rotowire. He’s also written for Gone Puck Wild, Wild Xtra, InDigest, Electric Literature, The Rumpus, Tiny Mix Tapes, Prefix Magazine & other publications. Have a tip? Email him at dlukenelson[at]gmail[dot]com.