The Philadelphia Flyers signed Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year, $51 million deal in the hopes that he’d end their goaltending issues. It didn’t work and after using a compliance buyout on that contract, the Flyers will enter the 2013-14 campaign with two promising and far cheaper options between the pipes.
Ray Emery and Steve Mason aren’t safe bets — they wouldn’t cost just over $3 million combined for next season if they were — but Philadelphia is hoping at least one of them works out. That’s not an unreasonable expectation.
Emery certainly seems worthy of a shot at the number one gig. The off-ice issues of his younger days appear to be a thing of a past. The 30-year-old has been through a lot, including avascular necrosis of the hip that threatened to end his career.
Instead he returned and has been working towards reasserting himself as a starting goaltender. He took a big step in that direction by posting a 1.94 GAA and .922 save percentage in 21 games with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Meanwhile, Mason is an enigma. He’s the man that led the Columbus Blue Jackets to their only playoff berth when he had a 2.29 GAA and .916 save percentage in 61 games as a rookie in 2008-09. That earned him the Calder Trophy, but his career has been a disaster ever since.
Brief moments of hope have been drowned out by rough stretches until the Blue Jackets finally dealt him to the Philadelphia Flyers for a 2015 third-round pick and Michael Leighton. The change of scenery seemed to suit Mason, who recorded a 1.90 GAA and .944 save percentage in his final seven appearances of 2013.
The question now is if Mason has finally been able to put his years of struggles behind him or if his time with Philadelphia merely coincided with another brief hot streak that won’t be sustained.
Both goaltenders have a lot to prove and plenty of personal motivation given their one-year deals. Both of them have been starters in the past and this is their opportunity to prove they deserve that position going forward.