January 6, 2016
TORONTO – When Ray Emery was contacted by Toronto to see if he was interested in playing for the AHL Marlies, all he could do was smirk at who was on the line.
The man on the other end of the phone was Maple Leafs assistant general manager Kyle Dubas, who Emery first crossed paths with when they were both in their youth trying to work their way on different paths to the NHL.
Emery was a 16-year-old rookie goaltender with the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and Dubas was a teenage stick boy working for the club’s equipment staff.
“When I picked up the phone and saw Kyle Dubas I had a couple laughs. He was like ‘Razor!’ We kind of chuckled together,” said Emery.
“It was pretty cool, he was 14 when I was up in (Sault Ste. Marie) and always kind of remembered him.”
In late December the Marlies needed a goaltender to assist them when injuries hit. The 33-year-old signed a professional try-out agreement after talking with Dubas, who was advised by Leafs GM Lou Lameriello to search for someone experienced in net.
At the time Emery was skating with the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs.
“I got a huge amount of respect for Ray, known him since he was 16,” said Dubas. “I just believe that he’s a high-quality person and a big benefit to our younger group. I just thought he was deserving.”
In October, after being released from Tampa Bay Lightning’s training camp, Emery had a tryout with the LA Kings’ AHL affiliate that didn’t work out after three starts. Then in early December he had an agreement with Admiral Vladivostok of the KHL that he says was pulled at the last minute.
“I signed a deal and they said thanks but no thanks or something, ‘we don’t have the money,’ I don’t know.” said Emery.
Emery’s KHL deal falling through, though, turned into a positive situation for the Hamilton native, who is excited about the idea of playing within the Leafs organization.
“I love playing, especially growing up around Toronto, I was a Leafs fan as a kid, it’s pretty cool,” said Emery.
Emery’s agreement with Toronto could be terminated at any time, but that won’t be an option until both James Reimer and Garret Sparks are ready to return to game action – giving Emery the chance for some more starts as the Marlies head out on a five-game road trip Friday in Winnipeg.
Emery’s a long ways away from thinking return to the NHL. And that’s not the expectation at this point in time from him or Leafs management.
But neither side wants to close down the idea completely without seeing how the near future starts to unfold.
“I don’t know what’s going to come of the situation,” said Emery.
“The way I look at it, you never know,” said Dubas. “Ray’s here and if he plays well he’s not that far away from being on the NHL roster.”
Emery is 1-1-0 in two starts for the Marlies with a 3.53 goals-against average and .875 save percentage. He missed a third start last week because of the flu.
Emery, who’s played in the NHL for Ottawa, Anaheim, Chicago and Philadelphia and a year in the KHL, doesn’t plan on giving up the game any time soon regardless of how it ends with Toronto. He’s just happy to be going to an arena every morning.
“I’m happy to be here for the moment….I just go day by day,” said Emery. “Wherever it ends off or however it happens I want to play as long as I can.”