Chicago Blackhawks: 3 Benefits of Ray Emery Coming to Training Camp
Regarded by many as the top remaining goaltender on the free agent market, Emery will compete with rookie Alexander Salak for the backup role behind Corey Crawford.
It won't be the first fight he's had (ask Josh Gratton, or Marty Biron and Andrew Peters). And it certainly won't be the most adversity he's faced, as it was just over a year ago Emery was diagnosed with "avascular necrosis," the same degenerative bone condition that derailed Bo Jackson's career.
The netminder somehow found a way to resume playing hockey and returned to the NHL last March with the Ducks. Emery was vital to Anaheim's late-season surge while Jonas Hiller was out with vertigo, and showed down the stretch how good he can be when he's right.
Several teams in need of help in goal, including the Ducks, have made the decision to pass on him. And apparently, thought Alex Auld and Peter Budaj were better options.
Meanwhile Stan Bowman and the Blackhawks have spent the summer reloading for another run at the Cup. Bringing in Emery, who will turn 29 in September, is just the latest low-risk, high-reward move for the Hawks.
They'll look to become fast friends at camp. Here are a few benefits.
3. Blackhawks Could Use Another Backstop
The Hawks have done well this offseason to replenish depth up front and on the blue line. However, they are somewhat thin between the pipes. Chicago doesn't have much after Corey Crawford, especially if something were to happen to the Blackhawks starter.
There is the rookie Salak, who was the cherry on top of the Jack Skille-Michael Frolik trade. But he has just two starts under his belt in the NHL.
He certainly has the talent to be a backup, but would he be able to handle an every night role if needed, given his lack of exposure to the NHL? In the AHL, with the departure of Hannu Toivonen, Alec Richards is alone on the depth chart in Rockford.
I guess Cristobal Huet is always an option....I can hear you screaming from here.
2. Competition Never Hurt Anybody
Think about it, you always seem to run a little bit faster when you have the feeling someone is coming up behind you. And they say competition breeds excellence. With the free agents Chicago has signed, and the developing prospects in the system, the Blackhawks will have camp battles at every position.
The attention will be on the likes of Ben Smith, Marcus Kruger and Jeremy Morin in the bottom six. In goal, Salak is the leading candidate for the backup job. And I think the young Czech should benefit from having Emery there to get him into another gear to take the next step.
On the flip side, the feisty Emery shouldn't be counted out. That has happened before—under circumstances much worse than these—and he came out on top. There is no losing for the Blackhawks here.
But let's just hope it doesn't come down to a fist fight...for Salak's sake.
1. Extra Experience
Salak's inexperience has been well documented so it is possible, despite his skill, that he isn't ready. If that ends up being the case, Emery is a reliable alternative. At 94-53-15 in his career, Emery will bring a solid resume come September.
Getting to taste playoff action again this past year with the Ducks is another positive. While he wasn't as good as he was at the end of the regular season, the experience of being in the postseason again will be something he can draw on moving forward, particularly if he was with the Hawks.
Remember it was just four years ago in 2007 that he helped the Ottawa Senators reach the Stanley Cup Final.
He wants to get back there again. So do the Blackhawks. Maybe they do it together...