Flyers' trade for goalie Steve Mason could signal departure of Ilya Bryzgalov

Steve Mason
Steve Mason
Posted: April 05, 2013

TORONTO - The Flyers' future goaltending situation was apparently put into disarray after they acquired Steve Mason from Columbus just before the NHL trade deadline Wednesday.

The move could pave the way for the Flyers to use a compliance buyout on starter Ilya Bryzgalov after the season.

The Flyers sent backup goalie Michael Leighton - did the ghost of Patrick Kane's 2010 Stanley Cup-winning goal go with him? - and a 2015 third-round draft pick to Columbus for Mason, who has regressed after winning the Calder Cup as rookie of the year in 2008-09. That season, he recorded a 2.29 goals-against average and 10 shutouts in 61 games.

This year, he was 3-6-1 with a 2.95 goals-against average and .899 save percentage. In the last four seasons, his goals-against average has been 3.05, 3.03, 3.39, and 2.95, respectively.

Mason, 24, was available because Sergei Bobrovsky - whom the Flyers traded to Columbus after last season for three draft picks - has blossomed into the Blue Jackets' top goalie and one of the best in the NHL this year.

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Mason is a restricted free agent after this season, and the Flyers want to resign him at a lower rate than he currently receives ($2.9 million). General manager Paul Holmgren said he expected to sign him before the season ends.

"We see him as one of our two goalies not only the rest of this year but moving forward," Holmgren said. "We'll just leave it at that for now."

Will Bryzgalov be the other half of the tandem? That may depend on how the rest of the season unfolds.

Earlier in the day, the Flyers were outbid for the goalie they really wanted, Ben Bishop, whom Ottawa traded to Tampa Bay for gifted rookie winger Cory Conacher (24 points) and a fourth-round pick.

Reportedly, the Flyers refused to part with slumping sophomore center Sean Couturier, preventing them from making the deal.

An NHL source would not confirm whether Ottawa wanted Couturier, but he did say the Flyers "never" had intentions of putting the 20-year-old in the deal.

Holmgren is hoping a change of scenery invigorates Mason, who is young enough to bounce back.

"We still think there's a tremendous upside there," Holmgren said, adding that goalie coach Jeff Reese was high on Mason.

"Every goaltender wants a fresh start," Mason said.

Mason is viewed as an upgrade over Leighton, but he is also a lot more expensive. If the Flyers keep Bryzgalov next year - that's a big if at the moment - and Mason re-signs for around his current salary, the Flyers will have about $8.6 million committed to their goalies.

They probably would not be getting enough bang for their buck.

Acquiring Mason could mean the Flyers will "amnesty" Bryzgalov next year and try to sign an unrestricted free-agent goalie in the offseason. The most attractive candidates are former Flyer Ray Emery, Jimmy Howard, Mike Smith, and Niklas Backstrom.

After this year, Bryzgalov, 32, will be owed a total of $34.5 million over the last seven years. If he is bought out through the amnesty procedure, the Flyers would have to pay two-thirds of that salary. But it would not count against the salary cap.

Before they acquired Mason, the Flyers claimed 6-3, 213-pound forward Adam Hall off waivers from Tampa Bay. Hall has played in 10 NHL seasons and figures to be used on the penalty kill and eat some minutes supplied by Max Talbot, who is out for the season with a broken left leg.

Hall, 32, had four points in a combined 26 games with the Lightning and Carolina this year, but he was effective in the faceoff circle, winning 54.9 percent of his 173 draws.

Adding Hall was an "easy decision," Holmgren said. "Adam has been around. He's a bigger guy and can play left wing, right wing, or center. It's depth and experience."


Contact Sam Carchidi at scarchidi@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @BroadStBull.

Marc Narducci contributed to this article.

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