THE FIRST TIME I covered a Flyers playoff game, I was backing up Les Bowen, or more to the point, I was like the fourth wheel in a five-spoke set.

About halfway through the game, the other four spokes would get together and divide up the stories or columns they wanted to write. After the game story, someone got "the other team," then the big goal scorer, the oddball moment, bad call, injury, whatever came up, and whatever needed to be written.

At least two would debate who gets "the goalie." In Philadelphia, "the goalie" is always a big story.

Was the one the Flyers had good enough? Did he play the big game and steal a win? Did he blow a win? Could the team win a championship with him?

Would the Flyers ever answer the goalie question?

The names in just my time with the Flyers could be inserted in any of the aforementioned story angles. Some of the bigger targets in this were Roman Cechmanek, Brian Boucher, Robert Esche, Jeff Hackett, Antero Niittymaki and, for the last 2 years, Marty Biron.

They came in accompanied by big headlines, they became stories unto themselves, and went out accompanied by big headlines.

And here we go again.

Sometime this week the Flyers will officially announce what has become common knowledge, that the current answer in net, Biron, is going to be replaced by the next big answer in net.

His name is Ray Emery.

The Flyers and Emery have come to terms on a deal that reportedly will pay him $1.5 million for 1 year. The deal can't be signed until July 1, when free agency starts. But the team is expected to announce the deal sooner.

It means the end of Biron's time as a Flyer, and another player - a goalie - the Flyers are going to take a chance on.

Like Emery, every one of those other goalies was supposed to deliver the Flyers back to the "Promised Land," but they were all big parts of teams that didn't get there.

One of the more unforgettable moments was Cechmanek standing at center ice in Ottawa as the Flyers were going down in first-round flames, yelling at the bench in his native language with no one understanding what he was saying.

They did understand what he was doing, and the next day in practice pucks were flying head-high.

Then there was "Silent Bob" Esche not talking to the media because one of them picked the Devils in the opening round. Hackett was supposed to be the answer, but he came down with a chronic inner-ear infection and was too dizzy to play.

So many guys, in and out, all of them talented, all of them quirky, and every one of them the center of some goalie story in which the Flyers couldn't find an answer in net.

They came in accompanied by big headlines, they became stories unto themselves, and went out accompanied by big headlines.

Biron was a talented backup who didn't get a chance in Buffalo and had no playoff experience. He was affable, talkative, a good person, and he proved to be a good goalie. He wants to get paid and he wants a long-term deal, something like $5 million and 5 years. He won't get that here.

So slide the "Biron" nameplate out and make one up that says "Emery."

And get used to it. A lot of headlines will start with that name.

He has a history of being a hothead, a fighter on the ice and in the locker room, a man who liked to live fast and drive cars so fast that the Ottawa police liked to pull him over. A player who missed practices and team planes and ultimately had his contract bought out and had to go to Russia to grow up and refocus.

He's a good player who led the Senators to the Stanley Cup finals and played well enough in Russia to have the Flyers sign him and take a chance that he has matured as much as his agent, J.P.Barry, says he has.

Only time will tell if he has and if he is going to be "the guy." But there is one thing that is for sure: Emery is going to be a story.

Just the first move

With Ray Emery signed, the Flyers will now have to focus on the second goalie. Antero Niittymaki is also an unrestricted free agent. It has been written that he is comfortable in the role; I doubt, however, that he would pass up a chance to be a starter .

Since the Flyers are looking to upgrade their defense, Jay Bouwmeester, Florida's big-name free agent, is a target.

Mike Knuble is without a contract. He wants to stay, the Flyers want him to stay, but to sign him and bring in Bouwmeester, a big contract will have to leave.

Joffrey Lupul? Maybe. *

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