Report: Steve Mason won’t be back with Flyers

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The free agent market figures to be crowded and unpredictable, but one thing seems clear: Steve Mason won’t return to the Philadelphia Flyers. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi reports that “his ship has sailed” when it comes to re-signing with Philly.

One got the impression that this would be a possibility when the Flyers signed Michal Neuvirth to a two-year extension with Mason’s situation unresolved, although the expansion draft opened up the possibility for more twists in that story.

Redemption (but also more stumbles)

Mason resurrected his career in Philly, managing an impressive .918 save percentage during his five seasons with the Flyers after managing a mediocre .903 mark during his Columbus days. The 29-year-old essentially went from “Sieve Mason” to a darling among many analytics-minded observers.

Still, the Flyers must have soured after he went 26-21-8 with a middling .908 save percentage in what was apparently his final season with Philly.

So, what’s next for Mason and the Flyers? Let’s consider some possibilities for both the goalie and his (former?) team.

Philly possibilities

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman predicts that the Flyers will roll with Brian Elliott (backed up by Michal Neuvirth). GM Ron Hextall seems savvy enough to look beyond a season of struggles to see a goalie with an overall history of production.

That said, the Flyers might not want a “quick fix” at age 32.

There’s at least an outside chance Hextall might stay in-house by combining Neuvirth and big prospect Anthony Stolarz.

One other interesting name in a platoon setup: Jonathan Bernier. Hextall has experience with Bernier during their time with the Los Angeles Kings, and the Kings lamented his loss when he went to Toronto.

Hextall tried to land a veteran goalie during draft weekend, so that might have been a preview for his free agent inclinations. If so, Elliott seems like a reasonable favorite, though the market could provide quite a few other choices.

Options for Mason

Interestingly, Mason bashed a two-goalie system back in April. If he insists upon being the clear No. 1 goalie, you have to wonder how many teams would give him the net outright.

The Winnipeg Jets were already a logical possibility, and it turns out that the two sides were in contact on Wednesday. The franchise has desperately lacked a goalie since Kari Lehtonen was a Thrasher, and if nothing else, Mason brings experience and some swagger.

Friedman also predicts Mason to Winnipeg, only making the rumblings more reasonable.

Beyond the Jets, Mason would likely need to accept a platoon situation. With that in mind, you wonder if Winnipeg might be able to get him at a discount rate.

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Mason and the Flyers benefited from their time together, yet it appears that those days are over. It’s a sad end for some, but they’ll add some spice to this off-season, particularly for the goalie market.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.