Is Emery a $4-million goaltender? Not yet

ERIN NICKS

, Last Updated: 7:09 AM ET

It's always interesting to hear paid pundits and notable insiders toss around names or numbers so flippantly.

One media member will initially make a comment, and somehow it snowballs from casual opinion to virtually inevitable fact.

And, of course, the Senators will have a name of note to be tossed around this off-season.

The player: Ray Emery. The amount: $4 million US.

Whaa?

Such significant numbers don't fall out of the sky, particularly when you're discussing a restricted free-agent such as the Senators goaltender.

Inevitably a ripple effect originates from somewhere -- another player on another team with similar attributes and statistics suddenly commands more than most would expect. As a general manager, it's one of the pitfalls of a vastly spread, yet intrinsically linked league. You may not play each team every year, but their respective operations can affect you regardless.

Unfortunately for the Senators, they have no one to blame but themselves for their situation. After all, they created their own ripple effect (or tidal wave, depending on your opinion) in the form of Martin Gerber.

The Swiss-born goalie was paid a three-year, $11.1-million contract as an unrestricted free agent by the Sens, under the assumption he would become the team's No. 1 goaltender.

Except it didn't quite work out that way.

GRIEVOUS ERROR

When Gerber's disappointments morphed into Emery's successes, it became blatantly obvious that Ottawa had made a grievous error in signing the former Hurricane.

But with the juggernaut that is unrestricted free agency continuing to revere goaltenders as a type of franchise platinum, it was safe to say that if John Muckler didn't shell out the $3.7 million per year for Gerber, somebody else would.

Of course, hindsight is 20/20 -- and even though we know another GM would have overpaid for Gerber, it was Muckler who made the decision to fork out the money.

But herein lies the problem: If you're Emery and you're doing all the heavy lifting despite your wallet remaining light as a feather, you will immediately begin to make comparisons to gauge your monetary worth.

And where's the first place you're going to look? Across the bench -- to the guy who was brought in as a supposed No. 1 goalie.

Muckler got a glimpse of what he was seeking from Gerber down the stretch (No. 29 won 10 of his last 12 regular-season games), but it wasn't enough to justify his sizable salary. Meanwhile, whispers have already begun, suggesting that Ottawa's GM is looking to unload Gerber this off-season.

So assuming Gerber is an imminent ex-Senator, how does anyone justify a monetary comparison that will no longer exist?

Taking nothing away from Emery's notable achievements this year -- 33 wins in 58 games with a 2.47 GAA and, most importantly, helping to bring the Senators within three wins of the Stanley Cup -- he's certainly worthy of a significant raise.

But did Emery steal a game in the final? Was he the catalyst behind their playoff drive? Was he consistent when it counted (see Games 4 and 5 vs. Anaheim)?

Muckler's chequebook must reflect the truthful answer to these queries. Comparisons are inevitable, but Ottawa's GM must remove the closest one to his current top goaltender, in order for the situation to be seen clearly. And most importantly, he can't repeat the mistake of doling out payment based on potential.

Gerber is being paid $3.7 million per season and, sadly, he didn't do enough to earn it. However, that doesn't justify paying Emery a similar or larger contract as a reward for taking over the position at mid-season.

CARRIED LOAD

Emery's carried the load and accomplished more than any other Senators goalie in modern history.

But should his wallet feel the weight of $4 million next season? It's simply too much of a burden for the Senators to bear.


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