A year after Ottawa released the petulant goaltender, forcing him to turn to a Russian league when no other NHL team would take him, Emery agreed to a one-year contract with the Philadelphia Flyers worth about US$1.5 million.
General manager Paul Holmgren thinks Emery, 26, has mended his mercurial ways and can again be the player he was when he helped the Senators to the Stanley Cup finals in 2007.
“I spent a great deal of time talking with Ray,” Holmgren said Wednesday. “The thing that kept coming back is he’s recognized there was a period in his life when he made some mistakes.”
Emery missed practices and clashed with teammates in Ottawa and was charged with multiple speeding violations and a road rage incident. Emery insists he’s learned from the past.
“I learned maybe more from those bad experiences than the good times we had there,” he said. “I realize I had a great thing going and lost a lot of people that I enjoyed hanging out with. I want to get back to having those good relationships. I think that’s the reason I’m going to change.”
The Flyers will be counting on Emery. Martin Biron, their starter last season, and backup Antero Niittymaki are unrestricted free agents.
Emery put together a record of 71-40-14 with a 2.71 goals-against average in his five seasons with Ottawa. He has appeared in 30 playoff games and went 13-7 with a 2.26 goals-against average with three shutouts as the Senators reached the Stanley Cup finals in 2007.
But after a rocky 2007-08 season during which he was repeatedly late for practice and ultimately lost his starting job, the Senators cut him loose.
Emery wound up in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League, appearing in 36 regular-season games with Atlant Mytischi and compiling a 22-8-0 record with a 2.12 goals-against average and .926 save percentage.
Flyers coach John Stevens said he also spoke at length with Emery and believes he can be productive again.
“I see it as a real good fit,” Stevens said. “What impressed me was he was willing to take responsibility. If he wasn’t, I would have been a lot more concerned.”