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.
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.
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.