Steve Mason entered Saturday 19-11-5 on the season with a 2.48 goals-against average and .917 save percentage. (USA Today Images)
Paul Holmgren finally has his goalie of the future.
The Flyers and Steve Mason agreed to a three-year, $12.3 million extension on Saturday (see story).
“I’m glad it’s done,” Holmgren said before the Flyers’ matchup with the New York Islanders. “Good to get it out of the way and move on. He needs to just worry about his job and nothing else.”
Mason, who started against the Islanders, is 19-11-5 with a 2.48 goals-against average and .917 save percentage this season. The 25-year-old is enjoying his best season since he won the Calder Trophy with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2008-09, but the Flyers’ general manager still expects his No. 1 netminder to continue to improve.
“I think if you look at this season in a nutshell, he was good when the team was real bad early in the year,” Holmgren said. “The last little while when the team got better I think Steve’s played up and down a little. We certainly expect him to get better now with the team over the next three and a half years. He’s a good goalie and we believe he’s going to get better.”
Mason’s play has slipped a bit over the past few weeks, but he’s still giving the Flyers a chance to win on a consistent basis. Bottom line: He is 8-2-1 in his last 11 starts despite his goals-against average rising and his save percentage decreasing.
Before joining the Flyers, Mason was unable to duplicate the play that made him the 2008-09 Rookie of the Year for the Blue Jackets. Columbus suffered three disappointing seasons without a playoff berth and shipped Mason to the Flyers on April 3, 2013, in exchange for Michael Leighton and a 2015 third-round pick.
That trade, without question, has worked out in the Flyers’ favor. Mason inked a one-year contract extension worth $1.5 million for this season and has arguably been the team’s most valuable player.
“When we acquired Steve from Columbus we viewed him as a good young goalie that kind of lost his way,” Holmgren said. “I think he’s fit in well on our team and he knows a number of our players, he’s played with them in international competitions at the World Junior levels, but I think it’s been a real nice fit.
“Steve’s big, he’s athletic. He’s very competitive, he handles the puck very well, which I think is important moving forward in this game. All those factors weighed into our equation.”
Holmgren said the Flyers and Mason were in talks about an extension for the past couple of weeks and discussed both longer and shorter deals, in terms of years, before coming to an agreement with which both sides were pleased.
The contract solidifies Mason’s role as the Flyers’ top goaltender. He’s played with a ton of confidence this season, something that’s caught Holmgren’s eye.
“I think that’s part of getting older, growing up and playing the game,” Holmgren said of Mason. “He’s played the game a long time now for being a young man. He’s been in the league a long time. I think that just comes with experience sometimes.”
For the first time in a long time, goaltending hasn’t been an issue for the Flyers. When asked if it was nice to finally have stability in net, Holmgren had to stop and laugh before answering with a smile.
“Whatever," Holmgren said. “I like our goalies this year and they’ve been a big part of our team. Team chemistry, the way they play, the way they compete, it's been a good fit."