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July 7, 2013 | 10:32am ET
Emery happy he's back in Philly
By David Strehle, TheFourthPeriod.com

PHILADELPHIA, PA -- The NHL Draft is in the rearview mirror, the free agency period is upon us, and that means one thing in Philadelphia. Among a litany of trade rumors rand speculation as to which free agents they will attempt to sign, the Flyers were once again in the market for a starting goaltender.

Other than last year, when Ilya Bryzgalov was entering his second season with the team, it's just business as usual for the Flyers. It's become a sad tradition for a team with a perpetual turnover between the pipes.

Paul Holmgren has had a busy week attempting to plug some sizable holes leftover from last season's non-playoff team, as well as the one that was created in the crease when Bryzgalov was cut loose via an amnesty compliance buyout.

Bryzgalov did not prove to be the missing piece to finally solve the club's two decades-long puzzle in the crease, and Steve Mason was the only NHL-caliber netminder currently under contract in the organization.

Philadelphia's answer to resolving the ongoing carousel-of-goalies was bringing back a familiar face, as Ray Emery was inked to a one-year, $1.65 million deal. Coupled with Mason's $1.5 million pact, Philadelphia's goaltending tandem will now be making approximately $2.4 million less than Bryzgalov's annual $5.67 million.

"I'm excited," Emery said in a conference call. "It's been kind of a crazy couple days. I was really excited when I got wind that that would be an option."

What made him decide to leave Chicago to come back to Philly?

"I feel the writing was on the wall in Chicago as far as myself goes," he explained. "In Philadelphia, it would be a new situation for both me and Steve."

In 228 career NHL regular season games for the Ottawa Senators, Flyers, Anaheim Ducks and the Blackhawks, Emery has a record of 126-63-19 with a 2.63 GAA, .908 save percentage, and 14 shutouts.

Like so many other ex-Flyers, this will be Emery's second tour of duty with the club. He played well during his only season back in 2009-10, when he posted a 16-11-1 record, with a 2.64 GAA, .905 save percentage, and three shutouts.

The sides likely believe there is unfinished business, as the now 30-year-old netminder's year was cut short by a hip ailment that nearly ended his career. He was diagnosed with a vascular necrosis in his right hip, and underwent surgery that April.

"I understood that there was a possibility that I might not play again, but it was just kind of what's the next step after I found out I had that condition."

While Emery dealt with the injury, Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton took a struggling team to the Stanley Cup Final, where they fell in six games to Chicago.

The 6' 2", 196-pound Emery said the procedure -- which involved a bone graft as part of the repair -- was the toughest challenge he's ever faced.

"The time immediately after the surgery was pretty crazy pain-wise, and just getting used to that," he said. "Iím missing a bone in my lower leg and they kind of hacked and whacked at it. It's amazing how much pain and how crazy that part was, and it's amazing how great it came back, and how I donít notice it now."

Many wondered what could have been had Emery remained healthy, and now they will get another look this year.

"I'm happy to be back in a situation where the first time around (in 2010)," he said. "I was really pumped about it and it didnít work out the way I wanted, the way I would have liked. The team as a group had a great year, losing in the Finals, but I'm really excited about being back."

Following a well-documented comeback, Emery returned for a season with Anaheim in 2011 before playing the last two years with the Blackhawks. He was 17-1-0 during this past regular season with a 1.94 GAA, .922 save percentage, and three shutouts on the way to winning the Stanley Cup.

Along with Mason, the way Peter Laviolette employs the tandem is probably a 1 / 1A situation as opposed to a set starter and backup, going with the hot hand.

"I just look at it as kind of a tandem relationship," Emery said. "Last year with me and Corey (Crawford in Chicago), it was more about the team success and we both kind of helped each other get better. As far as I know, thatís the best way to treat a goaltending relationship. I'm excited to work with him (Mason), teach him what I know about the game and what I've learned about the game, and I'm excited to work with a great young goalie."

As a matter of fact, the pair is pretty familiar with one another. They are practically neighbors.

"I skate with Mase in the summer," Emery said. "He's just around the corner from my place in Toronto. He's a great young goalie."

Emery's relationship with the Flyers has been excellent and he has a close connection with assistant GM John Paddock, as the two were in Ottawa together during Emery's early years. He also felt appreciative of Philadelphia taking a chance on him after there were no NHL clubs interested, an he spent time playing in the KHL.

With a more mature Emery and a younger Mason, there should be somewhat of a teacher / apprentice relationship between the duo. And the "elder statesman" has continued learning the position along the way.

"I'm a student of the game so you're always finding, especially as a goalie, better techniques and getting to understand the game more," Emery said. "As far as thinking the game, reading the game, and the technique I use, I'm four years older and more experienced."

There is no doubting that Holmgren has done a great job of getting his payroll better adjusted for more moves, with acquiring a top-two defender through the trade route still on his radar.

Was the NHL Memo About the Flyers?

There was a memo sent out by deputy commissioner Bill Daly to all NHL teams on Thursday, reminding them that the "shopping period" the day before free agency officially opened was to interview players only, and club's were not allowed to agree to deals with the players.

One of the clubs apparently complained because they intended to make another offer to one of their pending free agents before they hit the open market. It is pure speculation, but the situation could have been regarding the Flyers and Emery after reports had Chicago close to re-signing the goaltender earlier in the week.

David Strehle is the Philadelphia Correspondent for The Fourth Period.


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