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Steve Mason Signs with Winnipeg

Steve Mason Signs with Winnipeg

When you’re a Jet…

Steve Mason signed a 2-year, $8.2 million contract with the Winnipeg Jets today, officially ending his time in Philadelphia.

The 29-year old Mason, who won the Calder Trophy in 2009 after his rookie season with the Columbus Blue Jackets, was originally acquired by the Flyers in April 2013 from the Blue Jackets for Michael Leighton and a 3rd round draft pick. Mason replaced Ilya Bryzgalov as the Flyers’ starter for the 2013-14 season, and was given a 3-year, $12.3 million contract following a strong first-round playoff performance.

He became an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of his contract, and his departure was not unexpected after the Flyers signed Michal Neuvirth to a 2-year extension late last season.

Following Mason’s rookie season in Columbus, he was dogged by inconsistency behind the struggling Blue Jackets. His time in Philadelphia saw several improvements. With the help of then goalie coach Jeff Reese, he adopted a more simplified positional approach and reduced the size and fit of his leg pads, both of which allowed him to move more efficiently.

Mason also reduced his use of a very predictable half-butterfly against breakaways, which this season helped the Flyers reverse several years of woeful shootout results. Finally, after a particularly difficult goal against the Penguins in October, Mason began to use a VH post-integration technique on his glove side, replacing an RVH with which he had been consistently susceptible to low angle goals.

The Ontario native has for some time been a bit of an analytics darling, posting advanced 5-on-5 metrics that place him in the upper tier of NHL goalies. By comparison, he has struggled somewhat in shorthanded situations, often becoming overly conservative in his depth as the offensive patterns in front of him become more complex. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in Winnipeg, where discipline has been an issue.

Another factor to watch is his usage. The Jets were clearly disappointed with Connor Hellebuyck’s debut season, but will be looking for him to rebound. Eric Comrie will very likely continue his strong play in Manitoba, and soon may be pushing for a look at the NHL level as well.

Mason’s performance has been strongest when he has been given the net and relied on game after game. He is prone to an occasional very poor outing, but he rarely went through prolonged slumps behind the Flyers’ inconsistent defense.

Nonetheless, he was often replaced by Neuvirth for several games at a time, and struggled to excel when used intermittently. With Hellebucyk in the NHL and Comrie quickly developing in the AHL, Mason will have to expect that his usage may be variable.

It’s unlikely that Winnipeg will be Mason’s last stop. Winnipeg’s young goalies will be ready to take over the crease soon. This season looks to be a chance for Mason to audition for his next employer.

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