Ray Emery. Say that name since Comcast Sportsnet's Tim Panaccio broke the news that it's almost a done deal that Sugar Ray is headed to the Flyers and Flyers fans have recoiled like Dracula from garlic. There have even been people who say the thought of Emery in Orange and Black makes them sick.
I am stupefied at this reaction. The Flyers have a history of rolling the dice of folks with questionable and/or horrible incidents in their past. There was no outrage of this nature when Craig MacTavish was signed as a free agent, despite his unfortunate drunk driving accident that ended with a young woman dead and MacTavish in jail for a year.
Nor were there any moans when the Flyers added a hard partying defenseman named Danny Markov in 2004-and his heavy smoking countryman Alexei Zhamnov.
Players like Eric Lindros and John LeClair are revered former Flyers, and both had off ice incidents with alcohol. There are a lot of Flyers fans that would happily see Pelle Lindbergh's number retired, even though the spectacular Swede killed himself and permanently disabled his friend in a drunken driving accident in 1985.
Ray Emery seems to be a young guy, who struggled with immaturity. His off ice incidents, while numerous, all seem to be the actions of a immature kid who had a lot handed to him and had the money to get into trouble to boot. He subsequently became an easy target for the media and bore the brunt of a very dysfunctional locker room.
Personally, so long as the guy can perform on the ice, his off ice lifestyle isn't a major concern. Emery has never been suspended by the NHL for an off ice issue, and until he does, some of the more outrageous rumors remain just that. The puritanical bent shown by so many of my fellow Flyers fans is annoying to me.
Now, with the on ice part of the equasion, which is the more important part. The Flyers have limited cap room, and there are not a lot of good free agent goalies on the market. They could re-sign Martin Biron. However, Biron wants a long term contract and a significant raise. IMO, Biron hasn't earned that. He's a great guy and good teammate, but he's a very streaky goalie at an age where improvement isn't likely.
Other options would be guys like Josh Harding, Jaroslav Halak and Kari Lehtonen.
Harding would cost the Flyers assets to acquire and he's a RFA. He put up good numbers behind the Minnesota system and looks to have the talent to be a decent starting goalie. But, his good numbers might be a result of that system. He's also never been a NHL starter. Ditto with Halak.
Lehtonen has a great pedigree, but Atlanta would probably want a premium return for the former number two overall pick. He'd also probably command a long term deal for significant money. Lehtonen also has a worrisome injury history.
Emery has been a starter for a team that made the Stanley Cup Finals just two years ago. He's shown he can play at a very high level. He's got amazing athletic ability and lightning speed. He struggled following an injury during his last season in the NHL, but had a stellar performance in the KHL last season. He's only 27 years old, and may well be a steal or the Flyers.
I honestly see as much inherent risk in any of the goalies I mentioned as in Emery.
Here's hoping that Emery signs, comes in motivated and turns into one of Paul Holmgren's best moves.