Philadelphia Flyers hockey is synonymous with grit, intensity and passion. Unfortunately for fans and management alike, a new term has come to be associated with the Flyers; goalie carousel. Since Ron Hextall retired from the organization in 1999, the Flyers have fielded 16 goalies, including newcomer Steve Mason and former Flyer Ray Emery.
Ilya Bryzgalov was brought in to be the Flyers savior. A former Vezina candidate, Bryzgalov was already an established goalie with the Phoenix Coyotes. In 2011, he inked a nine-year, $51 million deal with the Flyers, solving the goaltending dilemma once and for all.
As we now know, this would not be the case. On June 25, the Flyers announced they would utilize one of their two compliance buyouts on Bryzgalov, canceling the remaining seven years of his contract. The Flyers will pay Bryzgalov 1.63 million dollars per season over the next 14 years, a figure that does not count towards their cap space.
All eyes turn towards Mason and Emery, as the duo are expected to split starts throughout the season until a clear number one goaltender emerges. Mason, winner of the 2009 rookie of the year award, posted an impressive 1.9 goals against average in his six starts with the Flyers at the end of the 2013 season.
Emery, meanwhile, could be considered the unsung hero of the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. He started the season with a 12-game win streak, setting an NHL record. As a backup to Corey Crawford, Emery went an incredible 17-1, posting a 1.94 goals-against-average and a .924 save percentage. This is his second stint with the Flyers, after a frightening bout of avascular necrosis nearly ended his hockey career in 2010.
The Flyers now field an established goaltending tandem for the first time in recent memory, and General Manager Paul Holmgren has managed to pull it off without breaking the bank. Emery was signed to a one-year, $1.65 million contract, while Mason was signed to a one-year contract worth $1.5 milliors. In total, the Flyers will spend a mere 3.15 million dollars on two goaltenders with tremendous upside.
In comparison, the Flyers were paying Bryzgalov $5.66 million a year. The inexpensive and brief contracts given to Mason and Emery will allow the Flyers to spend their limited cap space elsewhere, particularly on the blue line. Furthermore, the brevity of the contracts prevents the Flyers from becoming handcuffed to an unsuccessful goalie.
In acquiring Mason and Emery, Holmgren hopes to have found goaltending magic, an idea that has eluded the Flyers for over a decade. With a 38-year Stanley Cup drought, Flyers fans hope so too.