Though all signs point to the Flyers signing controversial goalie Ray Emery, general manager Paul Holmgren yesterday said both sides are still negotiating.

Because Emery played in Russia last season, the team that signs him can announce they have an agreement before July 1, when the free-agent signing period starts.

Holmgren isn't prepared to make that announcement.

"We're still talking," he said. "I can't say we've decided 100 percent yet."

Holmgren said he has talked with potential free agent Marty Biron and his agent "at length," and he was not ready to close the door on signing him.

But the door seems to be almost shut, and if you read between the lines, Emery looks to be the Flyers' guy.

For one, he is expected to sign a one-year deal for about $1.5 million, significantly less than Biron, who is seeking a four- or five-year contract that figures to land him about $4 million per season.

Biron, 31, who wants to remain with the Flyers, said he had a "good conversation" with Holmgren last week but conceded that fitting his salary within the cap restraints was a "big hurdle."

With the Flyers strapped for cap space, signing Emery, 26, would free room for them to pursue potential free agents such as defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Mike Komisarek. Holmgren can't comment on them until July 1.

"We have certain wishes internally, and whether we can make all those wishes come true, we'll see," Holmgren said.

Holmgren said he has met with Emery a few times and said he was impressed with his demeanor.

Emery, who helped Ottawa reach the Stanley Cup Finals in 2007, has a checkered past - fistfights (some with people connected to his team), missed practices, suspensions, dozens of traffic violations - but Holmgren gave the impression he was willing to overlook those incidents.

"He's an intriguing young man," Holmgren said from his office in the Skate Zone in Voorhees. "He's very intelligent. I think he has a good grasp on what happened and why he was released by Ottawa and why he spent a year in Russia. He's anxious about the possibilities of playing again in the NHL."

Asked if he had worries about Emery's conduct, which included a fight with his trainer last season, Holmgren shook his head.

"I've watched that thing, and I've listened to Ray's explanation about what happened, and I think it makes sense," Holmgren said of the altercation with the trainer, which started at the bench and continued down the runway.

"[The trainer] was trying to put a hat on him - for the sponsor of the hat - and basically [Emery] just wanted to get the hell out of there because he had just gotten pulled" from the game.

In addition to Biron, the Flyers are still talking with prospective free agents Mike Knuble, Andrew Alberts and Antero Niittymaki.

Holmgren met with Knuble's agent, Kurt Overhardt, for an hour yesterday but no deal was completed.