Signing Ray: Why it works, Why it doesn’t

Ever since the rumor broke that the much maligned Ray Emery may sign as the next  Flyers’ goalie, the fans and media in Philadelphia have been irate with disbelief.  However, signing “Razor” may not be as bad as initially thought…  Or will it?  The Flyers press conference introducing Emery will take place at 11 A.M. on Wednesday.

The Good

Value – The Flyers are said to have a deal with Emery for around $1.5 million for one year.  Just slightly more than former backup goalie Antero Niittymaki made  last year alone.  With a backup coming from within the system at roughly $500k, the Flyers will save a little over $2 million.  And with the salary cap likely dropping, that extra cash is nothing to laugh at.

He’s actually not a bad goalie – The knock on Emery is that he’s a psychopath.  But no one debates that when he’s on his game, that he can be an effective backstop.  Emery led the Ottawa Senators to the 2006-2007 Stanley Cup, with a 2.47 goals against average and a .918 save percentage.  That is slightly better than Biron’s 2.76 GAA and .915 sv% in 2008-09.  Emery was also solid in his stint with the Mytishchi Atlant of the KHL last season, scoring  a 2.12 GAA and .926 sv% in 36 games.  He also has a better NHL 09 rating than Biron.  Emery has an overall of 87, Biron has 85.

No doubt, Sugar Ray is exciting – Emery may be a short-fused lunatic, but that just makes him the most exciting goalie in the game.  If his high-powered, super aggressive attitude flys anywhere, it will be in Philly.  Emery racked up 174 penalty minutes in his three season with the Binghamton Senators of the AHL.  In his three full seasons in Ottawa he posted 38 PIM.  Biron only had eight in four seasons with the Flyers.  But what does a high count of PIM’s have to do with anything?  Well, Emery loves to fight.  If he didn’t play hockey he would probably be a boxer or into mma.  If the Flyers can keep him from fighting his teammates and trainers and focus him on the rest of the Atlantic Division, he will become a fan favorite rather quickly.

This is his second and final chance at the NHL — Emery has the reputation of being a me-first team killer.  But just like a kicker in football, as long as he keeps his insanity to himself and does his job, no one will even look his direction.  Emery was exiled to Russia after the 2007-08 Senators banished him for detrimental team misconduct.  No other team would touch him.  Flyers’ General Manager Paul Holmgren has given Ray a second chance.  If he doesn’t make good, he will be out of work in the NHL forever.  So for his livelihood, he needs to keep it together.

The Bad

He’s very sensitive — Emery has anger issues.  When he’s pissed off, it’s likely people know about it.  In his last days in Ottawa, Emery could be seen fighting the team’s enforcer, Brian McGratton in practice and having a scuffle with Jason Spezza.  In Russia, Emery was put on hiatus after trying to fight a team trainer.  Emery was unhappy after being pulled out of a game early and the trainer was attempting to put a sponsors hat on his head during media interviews.  RayRay didn’t like that and tussled with the guy. Covered in tattoos, Emery’s most famous ink is “Anger is a Gift.”

He has a bad history off the ice — On top of being a very angry person, Emery also likes to party like a rock star.  Rumored drug problems and tardiness to team planes and practices may have been embellished.  But where there is smoke, there is fire.  He also has had many run-ins with the law.  Ray likes to drive very fast and has disregard for speeding laws, wracking up a ton of fines while also having his Hummer impounded numerous times. He claimed in an interview that he had been stopped over 30 times for speeding in Ottawa.

Who is the backup? — Ok,  say Emery has a meltdown and gets thrown off the team.  Or maybe his play is sub-par and he gets benched.  Who comes in?  The Flyers are not likely going to sign a UFA as a backup and will probably have Phantoms’ goalie Scott Monroe and Johan Backlund battle for the spot in training camp.  That really leaves the Flyers without a plan B, when plan A isn’t a sure thing.  Emery is a very high risk, high reward signing.  But with goaltender, there is very little room to mess around.

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Filed under 2009-10 season, Free Agents

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