Ray needs to see the light

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:53 AM ET

Goalie Ray Emery has been shunned by the NHL.

The question is: Will he ever return?

As reported exclusively by Sun Media yesterday, Emery, 25, has accepted a one-year contract worth more than $2 million (all terms US) in Russia with Atlant Mytishchi in the Continental Hockey League, but that doesn't mean he's gone for good from the NHL.

In fact, many predict this will be a one-year hiatus if Emery has a strong year in Russia.

"If he goes over there, has some success and focuses on getting his game back to the level everybody knows that it can be, he's going to get the chance to play in the league again ... That's for sure," a league executive said yesterday.

Before Emery was bought out of the final two years of his $6.75-million contract by the Senators, some league executives were predicting that teams "would be lined up" to sign the netminder, but it never happened.

It's believed Emery was offered nothing more than a tryout by a couple of teams, with no promise of a contract.

This is the goaltender that led the Senators to the Stanley Cup final two years ago and now he can't even get a sniff in the NHL. Why is that?

Emery's reputation took a huge hit for twice being late for practice, not working hard when he did show up and fighting with teammates.

"If you look at Ray Emery, with all the problems that he had last year in Ottawa, everything that went wrong with the Senators is being blamed on him," said a league executive. "That's why nobody wants to touch him. The club's problems are directly correlated to what Emery did.

BLAME GAME

"He's got to show (in Russia) that he's not as bad as everybody thinks. That not only can he go over their and focus on his game, (but) he can be a model citizen. He really needs to have a good year in Russia. If he does, and teams are going to keep a close eye on him, then he's got a chance to get back."

Is blaming Emery fair?

"No, but that's the perception and perception isn't always reality, but that's what happened here," said another league executive. "The guy is a tremendous athlete and he's shown when he's 100% that he can play at a very high level. Maybe he got too much, too fast.

"I don't think there's any question that Ray Emery has the skills and the talent to play in the NHL. The only question is whether he's dedicated enough to get himself back to that level where people have the same kind of respect for him."

Having a big year in Russia could pay huge dividends for Emery next summer because the NHL's potential unrestricted free-agent crop isn't likely to be deep among goalies.

While Ryan Miller, Martin Gerber, Nikolai Khabibulin, Niklas Backstrom and Martin Biron are scheduled to become UFAs, a couple of them are likely to ink new deals.


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