Inside the Flyers: New contract good for Mason, Flyers

Goalie Steve Mason's three-year extension at $12.3 million is a good length and price for the Flyers after the Ilya Bryzgalov mistake. And Mason will get to become an unrestricted free agent in 2017.
Goalie Steve Mason's three-year extension at $12.3 million is a good length and price for the Flyers after the Ilya Bryzgalov mistake. And Mason will get to become an unrestricted free agent in 2017. (YONG KIM / Staff Photographer)
Posted: January 20, 2014

To their credit, the Flyers learned from the disastrous nine-year deal they gave Ilya Bryzgalov.

They announced Saturday they had signed goalie Steve Mason, who could have become a restricted free agent after this season, to a three-year extension. Mason will be paid $12.3 million, or $4.1 million per season.

It's a good deal for the Flyers because it does not tie them up for an ultra-long period, like the $51 million Bryzgalov contract. It's also a good deal for them when you consider Mason's agent, Anton Thun, said last month he thought his client was comparable to Montreal's Carey Price, who signed a six-year deal for $39 million ($6.5 million per season) in 2012.

And while Mason didn't break the bank, it's a good contract for him, too.

Remember, Mason was beaten out for the No. 1 job by Sergei Bobrovsky in Columbus last season. He was a backup and had no bargaining power when he was dealt to the Flyers last April.

He signed with the Flyers for a bargain-basement price this year ($1.5 million), hopeful he would improve his value by emerging as the No. 1 goalie.

That, of course, is just what happened.

So both sides are happy, and the Flyers' goalie situation appears to be in good hands. Mason, despite slipping a bit in recent weeks, took a 2.48 goals-against average and .917 save percentage into Saturday's start against the Islanders.

"Steve has played well for Philly, but we all have to be honest that it's just a half season," Thun, Mason's refreshingly candid agent, said in a phone interview Saturday. ". . . For them to lock into a longer term after a half season didn't make sense. You have to be open-minded enough and be aware of what both sides are thinking."

The three-year deal was a compromise that "worked for both sides," Thun said. "It was the right term for establishing Steve with a little bit of security, but it doesn't lock him into a significant longer term that reflects his future potential."

Mason, 25, will be almost 29 when the regular season ends and his contract expires in 2017.

"He went through such a tough time in Columbus, and when you do that, it takes a long time to establish what I call long-term confidence . . . and to a level of consistency that's not only game after game, but year after year," Thun said. "This contract gives him the opportunity to be in the prime of his career when it ends and hopefully maximize things at that time."

Mason's numbers are better than Bryzgalov's last season and, perhaps just as important, so is his team-first attitude.

Bryzgalov liked to draw attention to himself, and his persona grew old in the locker room. Yes, most of his teammates liked him and smiled at his zaniness. But some shook their heads and wanted him to take responsibility for his on-ice shortcomings.

Mason is the anti-Bryzgalov. He has made the Flyers' locker room a much happier place, and that chemistry has helped the team on the ice.

Here's a snapshot of Mason: After the 6-foot-4 goalie had a subpar performance in a recent victory, he walked around the locker room and thanked each of his teammates for bailing him out.

That's character.

In short, Mason is a stand-up guy. The Flyers went from Mr. Universe to Mr. Conscientious.

After Thursday's 4-3 loss to Nashville, Mason took the blame because the Flyers twice took the lead in the shootout and would have won if the goalie had stopped either of the next two shots.

"The guys gave me two opportunities to win the game, and I couldn't do it, so I let them down tonight," he said.

Unspoken was that Mason made some terrific third-period saves to keep the Flyers within 3-2. They eventually tied it and salvaged a point.

Mason's teammates made a point to defend him after the game.

Sample: "I don't think he can worry about that at all," winger Wayne Simmonds said. "He's been saving our butts all year. It has nothing to do with him; we should've played a more solid 60 minutes in front of him."

Thun, the agent, thinks Mason's play will improve with contract talks out of the way.

"With this under his belt," Thun said, "I think his level of confidence will bring even better things to the Flyers."

Now if only the Flyers can add a top-pair defenseman to play in front of Mason . . .


scarchidi@phillynews.com

@BroadStBull

www.inquirer.com/

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