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The Flyers' most obvious and important need heading into NHL free agency was finding Carter Hart's backup.
The club did so Wednesday by signing Martin Jones to a one-year, $2 million deal.
Jones, 31, went 15-13-4 with a 3.28 goals-against average and .896 save percentage last season with the Sharks. In his six-year career with San Jose, Jones went 170-121-27 with a 2.66 goals-against average, .907 save percentage and 18 shutouts.
Former Flyers backup goalie Brian Elliott (one year, $900,000) signed with the Lightning on Wednesday. Free agency gave way to a ton of movement on the goalie landscape. Two possible fits for the Flyers were Jonathan Bernier and Braden Holtby. Bernier went to the Devils on a two-year, $8.25 million deal, while Holtby joined the Stars on a one-year, $2 million deal.
The last two seasons did not go well for Jones, nor did they go well for the Sharks. After making the playoffs in 14 of the previous 15 seasons, San Jose missed the postseason the past two years, going a combined 50-64-12.
Jones, who had started 60 or more games and won 30 or more in each of his first four seasons with the Sharks, went 32-34-6 with a 3.12 goals-against average and .896 save percentage over the last two years. On Tuesday, Jones had the final three years of his contract bought out by San Jose.
"For me, I wasn't happy with the way the last two seasons went; I don't need that to motivate me," Jones said Wednesday. "Obviously I think I have something to prove now, so anytime you get a little extra motivation, that can be helpful. For me, I know what my expectations are of myself and they're a lot higher than what the last few seasons have shown."
Familiarity factored into Jones' decision to sign with the Flyers. Jones started his pro career with the Manchester Monarchs, the Kings' AHL affiliate at the time. He worked with Flyers goaltending coach Kim Dillabaugh, who oversaw goalie development in Los Angeles' organization.
"Definitely was on my mind," Jones said. "We had a great relationship when I was in Manchester. He knows my game very well and we know how to work together. That was a factor, for sure. Hopefully we can sort of pick up where we left off and hopefully get my game back trending where it was a few years ago."
A backup with pedigree and one who can also be relied upon was important for the Flyers to have behind Hart. The 22-year-old is their franchise netminder and has already had success, but he got his first taste of NHL adversity last season. Hart went 9-11-5 with a 3.67 goals-against average, while the Flyers finished with NHL-worst marks in save percentage (.883) and goals allowed per game (3.52).
Jones does not lack in experience. He has played in 62 playoff games, putting up a 2.37 goals-against average and .917 save percentage. Given the age difference and having played in the West, Jones has never met Hart. He's excited to work with him.
"He's a great young goalie, I love watching him play," Jones said. "I think it's going to be a good situation for both of us. We'll be able to learn from each other and help each other out."
Both goalies will have rebound seasons on their minds. With a revamped defense and a new tandem in net, the Flyers have a different look on the back end. They'll have to prove they're a different team by cutting down the goals against.
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