One of the more unlikely free agent signings on July 1st came from Philadelphia, where the Flyers brought aboard a 32-year-old goalie that’s never played in the NHL — Rob Zepp.
Zepp, twice drafted by the Thrashers and Hurricanes, never advanced beyond the AHL level with either club and has spent the last nine seasons in the Finnish and German leagues. While his road to the NHL is an unlikely one, it’s not completely unheard of.
“Over the years, guys have done it,” Zepp said, per Simcoe.com. “Tim Thomas and Viktor Fasth came over in their 30s and we know the success they’ve had, especially Tim.
“Stories like that provide inspiration and motivation for guys like me.”
(Thomas was 31 in his first “full” NHL season and won his first of two Vezina Trophies at 34. Fasth was 30 upon making his NHL debut with Anaheim.)
As far as picking teams, Zepp chose wisely with Philadelphia. Steve Mason’s entrenched as the No. 1 and Ray Emery is returning as his backup, but neither is a lock for a huge workload. Mason missed time last season with a concussion and has never appeared in more than 61 games in a single season; Emery, who turns 32 himself in September, didn’t exactly have a banner campaign in ’13-14 (9-12-2, .903 save percentage, 2.96 GAA).
Throw in the fact AHL Adirondack goalie Cal Heeter is still relatively untested — he has just two full seasons at the American League level — and ’12 second-rounder Anthony Stolarz is still just 20 years old…and, well, Zepp could really have a shot at this. He’s no slouch, going 24-14-0 with a 2.39 GAA and .931 save percentage with Berlin last year, and knows this might be his real last chance at playing in the NHL.
“Ten or 15 years ago it was not possible,” he explained. “But maybe more teams realize guys have maybe been lost in the shuffle.”