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Does Steve Mason Spell the End for Ilya Bryzgalov in Philly?

Does Steve Mason Spell the End for Ilya Bryzgalov in Philly?

The Flyers lost out on Ryane Clowe, who wound up going to
the New York Rangers. They sat on their hands as Jaromir Jagr was shipped off
to the Boston Bruins. And according to reports, they were beat out for
26-year-old netminder Ben Bishop, who the Ottawa Senators wound up sending to
the Tampa Bay Lightning instead.

The Flyers did not come away empty-handed at the trade
deadline however, nor without a goalie, sending Michael Leighton and a
third-round pick in 2015 to Columbus in exchange for Steve Mason. With that, it
didn’t take very long for speculation to swirl over the future of one Ilya
Bryzgalov, because of course it didn’t.

Mason, 24, has been trending downward ever since his stellar
rookie season in 2008-09 when he led the NHL with 10 shutouts. He played just
46 games last season – the lowest total of his career – and finally surrendered
the starting job to Sergei Bobrovsky this year, posting a 3-6-1 record with a
2.95 goals against average and .899 save percentage.

Some have described it as ironic that the Flyers traded for
Bob’s backup. The real irony here is that they had to trade a goaltender
(Leighton) for goaltender help. But I digress.

Despite the fact that Mason has been increasingly less
impressive as the years have gone by, the natural leap is this acquisition sets
the team up to amnesty Bryzgalov in the offseason. This is fueled by several
factors, chiefly that there is some dissatisfaction with Bryz’s performance and
contract, but also that the Flyers were chasing young goalies at the deadline
to begin with.

There’s also the matter of Mason’s contract. He’ll become a
restricted free agent this summer, when at that time if the Flyers would like
to retain the player’s services they must render a qualifying offer that
matches his salary of $3.2 million, with a contract length of up to two years.

When combined with Bryzgalov’s average salary of $5.67 million,
that would be almost $9 million tied up in goaltending for the next two seasons.
That sounds like a lot.

So  a case can be made
that the Flyers are preparing to separate from Bryz, and the first step was to
acquire a cheaper option, in this case a salvage project. Paul Holmgren didn’t
exactly pour cold water all over the possibility, either. The general manager
told reporters the organization views Mason as part of the future.

“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.”

Then again, Homer was also optimistic they could reach a
deal with Mason that would pay him less than the value of the qualifying offer.
If that were true, it changes the dynamics quite a bit.

The Flyers have had to learn the hard way about going cheap
on a backup. We understood the reasoning behind it, that being Bryz is a goalie
who commands a lot of ice time, and they were up against the salary cap as
usual. Unfortunately it’s backfired. Head coach Peter Laviolette literally could
not afford to use Leighton or Brian Boucher, so Billy will be starting his 20th
straight game on Wednesday.

This trade may very well boil down to nothing more than
filling an obvious need. There’s even evidence to support that line of thinking.
Ed Snider defended Bryzgalov as recently as this past weekend, essentially
absolving the maligned netminder of the club’s issues.

“I don't think Bryzgalov has been the problem,” Snider said.
“I mean, he's had to face so many breakaways and 2-on-1s where we turn over the
puck suddenly. I think it's the team. I think we're fine in goal.”

Digging even further into the theory that ownership stands
behind Bryz is the reality that Snider wanted Homer to put an end to the goalie
carousel in Philly once and for all. You can argue whether signing the
cosmonaut to a nine-year deal – not to mention his 15-14-3 record, 2.81 GAA,
and .900 SV% this season – has truly accomplished that or not, yet where
exactly does Mason fit in with that vision?

Not to rule out the organization using amnesty on Bryzgalov
completely, if for no other reason than the Flyers might not wish to cut him
checks up to his 40th birthday, but this move doesn’t quite lend the appearance
that is indeed their intent. Bryz’s salary is not as excessive as many people
like to make it seem (8th in average salary among goalies this year), and the
front office doesn’t believe he’s the problem.

We shall see. As for the trade itself, it’s no blockbuster,
but certainly wise to pick up somebody that might be able to give Bryzgalov a
breather. Meanwhile, Mason flashed serious potential early in his career, so
who knows what could happen if he can recapture it. I’m just not convinced you’ll
ever see that for Philly on any kind of regular basis.

>>
Flyers acquire goalie Steve Mason from Columbus [CSN]

>> Flyers trade for goaltender Steve Mason [Frequent
Flyers]

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CSNPhilly Internship - Advertising/Sales

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CSNPhilly Internship - Advertising/Sales

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On deck? Phillies' Scott Kingery, Tom Eshelman receive honors in future home

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USA Today Images/Cheryl Pursell

On deck? Phillies' Scott Kingery, Tom Eshelman receive honors in future home

Sixteen players made their major-league debut with the Phillies this season. More players will come as the 2018 season unfolds.

Scott Kingery and Tom Eshelman will likely be among them.

Kingery and Eshelman were at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday to be honored as this year's winners of the Paul Owens Award for top position player and pitcher in the Phils' minor-league system.

Kingery, a 23-year-old second baseman from the Phoenix area, batted .304 with 29 doubles, eight triples, 26 homers and 29 stolen bases between Double A and Triple A.

Eshelman, a 23-year-old right-hander from the San Diego area, went 13-3 with a 2.40 ERA and an 0.97 WHIP in 23 starts between Double A and Triple A. In 150 innings, he struck out 102 and walked just 18.

Prior to being honored on the field before Tuesday night's game, both players stopped by the Phillies clubhouse. They were surrounded by many familiar faces, former teammates who'd made the jump from the minors to the majors this season. It affirmed for Kingery and Eshelman just how close they are to reaching their major-league dreams.

"Obviously it’s just one step away," Kingery said. "And every time you see one of your good friends you’ve played with for the whole season make that step up and start doing well, it gives you a little bit of confidence, knowing that, 'Hey, I was playing with these guys yesterday and now they’re making their big-league debuts,' so it does."

Eshelman had a front-row seat for Rhys Hoskins' heroics in Lehigh Valley. Hoskins was the International League MVP and Rookie of the Year this season, and has come to the majors and stroked 18 homers in a little more than a month.

"Rhys is kind of a hometown hero in my town," Eshelman said. "I’ve been getting a lot of text messages and direct messages on Instagram, like, ‘Hey, did you play with this guy?’ It was fun to watch him in Triple A and Double A last year, but to watch him up here doing what he’s doing, it’s incredible. All of these guys. They’re all kind of chipping in. It’s cool to see the success that they’ve had."

Kingery and Eshelman were both selected in the second round of the 2015 draft. Kingery, a University of Arizona product, went 48th overall to the Phillies. Eshelman, a strike-throwing machine out of Cal State Fullerton, was selected by the Houston Astros two picks ahead of Kingery.

The Phillies acquired Eshelman in general manager Matt Klentak's first big trade, the one that sent Ken Giles to the Houston Astros in December 2015. Eshelman came over to the Phils in a package that included headline pitchers Vince Velasquez and Mark Appel. Velasquez has struggled with injury and inconsistency in his two seasons in Philadelphia and Appel has had similar problems in the minors.

Eshelman does not possess eye-popping, radar-gun-wowing stuff, but he throws quality strikes and limits walks. Basically, he pitches.

"He's the best executor of pitches that we have in the system," director of player development Joe Jordan said. "He might not have the type of weapons that get you talked about a lot, but his stuff is plenty good to pitch in the major leagues. He's got four or five pitches and he can use them all. He's great at reading swings. He's smart enough to know when a hitter is sitting soft and elevate a fastball and it will look 94 when it might be 90-91."

Eshelman likely will be invited to big-league camp in February and could make the jump to the majors next season.

"This is an organization on the rise and I’m happy to be a part of it," he said.

Kingery played well enough this season that he could have earned a look in the majors this month, but the Phillies' front office is trying to retain as many young players as possible. Kingery does not need to be protected on the 40-man roster this winter and that will allow the Phillies to add a different prospect to the roster and protect him from the Rule 5 draft. Kingery will be in big-league camp next spring — he was a standout in big-league camp this spring — and could very well be ready for the majors on opening day. That, however, does not mean he will be there. The Phils could look to push his potential free agency back to after the 2024 season by keeping him in the minors for a few weeks at the start of next season. That might not make fans happy, but it makes baseball sense.

The Phils are expected to shop second baseman Cesar Hernandez this winter to clear a spot for Kingery. Ditto shortstop Freddy Galvis as it relates to J.P. Crawford.

"Personally I think I’ll try to block most of that out," Kingery said. "I know it’s probably going to be tough. I’ll probably see some of it. I’m just going to do what I can this offseason to give myself the best shot to come into spring training and have a good year."