29-Year-Old Goalie – Philadelphia Flyers
Steve Mason Contract Information:
Signed a three-year, $12.3 million extension with the Flyers in January 2014.
Mason was left unprotected by the Flyers for the expansion draft.
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RotoWire's Preseason Outlooks
Though he dealt with a number of injury setbacks along the way, Mason still turned in a fantastic season for the Flyers, posting an 18-18-11 record to go with a .928 save percentage that ranked third-best in the NHL. The 27-year-old has been a consistent and reliable netminder since arriving in Philadelphia and has finally given the Flyers some stability in the crease. While the team signed Michal Neuvirth during the offseason, Mason's excellence last season likely guarantees him at least 60 games in the net so long as he remains healthy. The Flyers havenít improved much this offseason, so donít expect a huge increase in wins for Mason, but he can be counted on for a solid save percentage and competitive play in the net.
Many questions persisted about the state of Philadelphia goaltending last year, but Mason silenced those queries with his stellar play. And his 12-6-2 record after the Olympic break is one of the key reasons the Flyers were able to make the postseason. Fantasy general managers would be wise to keep an eye on him; he can be drafted deep in the draft and will likely be the starting goalie for an over-.500 team. He is the ideal fantasy backup goalie, as long as he can stay healthy and maintain consistency. Just make sure that broken finger he suffered in a ball hockey game in late July is fully healed.
Mason posted impressive numbers after taking over for Ilya Bryzgalov in the final games of the 2012-13 season. With a .944 save percentage and a 1.90 goals against average in seven games, many expected him to be the Flyers' number one goaltender after the team parted ways with Bryzgalov. That changed with the signing of Ray Emery. Mason has shown promise between the pipes, and if Emery doesn't pan out, he could warrant a look in most leagues.
If ever a player needed a clean slate and a fresh start, it's Mason. Three years after his outstanding rookie season, he's become a sub-par goalie whose confidence has been shattered by the leaky sieve that has been the Blue Jackets' defense. The club now has a solid core of young blueliners who could develop into a formidable unit, but it's likely too late for that crew to help salvage anything out of Mason. The Jackets spent the offseason seeking replacements for him, trading for Sergei Bobrovsky and spending two high picks on young Euro-tenders, so it seems that it's only a matter of time before their former future franchise netminder finds himself in another uniform.
The Blue Jackets thought they had a franchise goalie after Mason's incredible rookie season, but his thoroughly mediocre performance over the last two seasons has put that status in serious jeopardy. A better blue line corps in front of him would help, as would an offense that takes some of the pressure off Mason, but the bottom line is that he needs to get mentally tougher before he'll be able to fully realize his talent and join the NHL's elite. Another year with a 3.00 GAA and .900 save percentage could leave Columbus looking for a different answer between the pipes.
After his historic rookie campaign Mason was expected to be Columbus' version of Ken Dryden or Patrick Roy, but his sophomore regression now sees him trying to avoid becoming their Carey Price. He lost 13 wins and saw his GAA swoon by three-quarters of a goal, and while the efforts of the team in front of him didn't help matters Mason seemed to be fighting the puck more often than not. He still has the physical tools to dominate and is far from a lost cause, as his back-to-back shutouts of the Sharks and Sabres in February demonstrated, but there have been more than enough one-hit wonder goalies in recent NHL history to sow some doubts in his ability to regain his form. To say this season is crucial for him would be a vast understatement.
Coming into last season Pascal Leclaire seemed ready to cement his place as the Blue Jackets' franchise goalie, while Mason was merely a kid coming off knee surgery and looking to cut his teeth in the AHL. Fast forward 12 months and Leclaire is in Ottawa, while Mason is coming off arguably the most impressive rookie season by a goaltender since Ken Dryden hoisted his first Stanley Cup. The runaway Calder Trophy winner for the NHL's top rookie (and Vezina runner-up to Tim Thomas) Mason finished second in the league in GAA (2.29) and first in shutouts (10, an NHL record for rookies), as well as setting a Columbus franchise record with 31 wins. Just to make his accomplishments as a first-year player even more absurd, Mason did all that while battling through a midseason case of mononucleosis. If Mason can stay healthy, Hitchcock can avoid the temptation to overwork the youngster, and the club's offense continues to improve it's possible that Mason's second season could be even more impressive than his historic first year.
Pascal Leclaire has established himself as the teamís #1 goalie, but Mason is developing quickly and could be a year or two away from forcing the team to make a decision on which goaltender to hitch their wagon to. He was named tournament MVP at the world juniors and will get his first real taste of the pros this year in the AHL. The only issues with Mason are his maturity and focus Ė once he proves himself on those fronts (and his world junior championship performance was an important step along that path) the skyís the limit.