Best of all, Steve Mason’s new contract gives Flyers flexibility

Best of all, Steve Mason’s new contract gives Flyers flexibility

By all accounts, everybody was a winner over the weekend when the Philadelphia Flyers and Steve Mason agreed to a three-year contract extension worth $12.3 million. The orange and black can finally put the goaltender carousel in storage for awhile—at least we hope so—while Mason earns top-20 netminder money with a chance to cash in as a free agent when he’ll still only be 28 years old.

It’s hard to find fault in any of that. Mason’s numbers this season won’t blow anybody away—he’s got a 19-11-5 record with a .915 save percentage and 2.56 goals against average. However, since arriving in Philly at last April’s trade deadline, Mase has brought stability back to the organization both in the crease and the locker room. He was often the only reason the Flyers were in any games at all over the first month of the season, and who knows how good the numbers would look behind a more consistent defense.

Steve Mason is clearly the right goalie for right now. But the best part is if he’s not the right goalie anymore a few seasons down the road, it won’t be a major issue.

The biggest problem with Ilya Bryzgalov wasn’t his up-and-down play between the pipes or even the eccentric attitude that didn’t endear him to fans, teammates or members of the media. It was both of those flaws coupled with the fact that at nine years, $51 million, there wasn’t a thing the Flyers could do to remedy it.

In some respects, the NHL lockout might’ve been the best thing that could’ve happened to Philadelphia. The compliance buyouts that came with the new collective bargaining agreement are the only reason the Flyers were able to get out from under that costly mistake. Otherwise, Bryz would still be flinging his stick around the Wells Fargo Center and fighting his daily battles with reporters over his off-the-ice antics as much his deficiencies on the playing surface.

At $4.1 million, Mason is much more cap friendly—currently it will be the 14th-highest salary among NHL goalies next season, and it could fall further until new deals are signed. That gives the front office roughly $1.5 million per season to spend on additional players compared to what they would’ve had under Bryzgalov.

The most important aspect is the years though. If Mason should revert to the level of performance from his final days in Columbus, the Flyers are not stuck with him forever. If a better option comes along in the meantime, Mason’s contract would not be impossible to trade to another team. If 2012 second-round pick Anthony Stolarz continues his development along the current trajectory, Mason’s contract doesn’t prevent the youngster from becoming the franchise’s goaltender of the future.

Stolarz has done a nice job with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League. In 50 appearances between this season and last, the 20-year-old has posted a 34-7-2 record with a .923 SV% and 2.46 GAA. He's still a few years away from being NHL-ready, but certainly remains a player to watch.

Of course, the easiest scenario that could happen is Mason would continue improving himself and hold on to the job for the duration contract, maybe longer. He’s looked visibly more comfortable and confident from the moment he first donned orange and black, and it’s possible he has yet to realize his full potential. After all, Mason was a Vezina Trophy nominee as a rookie in 2008-09, so there is precedence for him playing at or near the highest level in the NHL.

For now, it remains uncertain what exactly the Flyers have in Mason. At the very least though, he’s a solid hand with the potential to be more. For once, we’ll get to find out without breaking the bank or eliminating every other possibility in the process.

Eagles 21, Vikings 10: Standout plays

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Eagles 21, Vikings 10: Standout plays

Reviewing the standout plays from the Eagles' 21-10 victory over the Vikings:

1. First quarter: Pick your turnover
There were six in the first half and five in the first quarter -- four coming on consecutive possessions in the first quarter.

Carson Wentz threw two interceptions. Brent Celek may have been interfered with on the first, but the second was all on Wentz. He dodged the rush and actually had some time, but forced it into triple coverage.

Sam Bradford had one. He was hit by Brandan Graham, and Rodney McLeod came down with the pick.

Wentz and Darren Sproles botched a snap, but the Eagles got the ball right back when Connor Barwin hit Bradford's arm just before it went forward and Malcolm Jenkins recovered. Jenkins returned it for a touchdown, but after a review he was ruled down because Rudolph had touched him.

In the second quarter, Rodney McLeod stripped Bradford, Beau Allen -- in for injured Bennie Logan -- recovered and it led to a field goal.

2. Second quarter: Josh Huff's 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown
After Blair Walsh scored the game's first points with a 48-yard field goal that barely made it over the crossbar, Huff caught the ensuing kickoff at the 2-yard line and bolted straight ahead. 

He ran through Walsh, and just when it looked like Vikings CB Marcus Sherels might catch him, Huff stepped on the gas and flipped into the end zone for his second career kickoff return for a score.

Doug Pederson then elected to take the successful PAT off the board after Vikings safety Harrison Smith was flagged for roughing the kicker, and Wentz gave the Eagles two more points with a sneak.

3. Second quarter: Going for it on 4th-and-2 at the Vikings' 44
With 1:21 left in the first half, the Eagles lined up to go for it and tried to draw the Vikings offside. When that didn't work, they called timeout ... and then went for it again. 

Wentz dropped the snap, picked it up and sprinted left for six yards and the first down.

The drive ended when Caleb Sturgis hit a 35-yard field goal that followed yet another odd sequence. Sturgis, with 15 seconds left in the half, attempted a field goal, but the Vikings called timeout to ice him. Pederson then sent out his offense, and Wentz threw incomplete to Jordan Matthews in the end zone before Sturgis returned to hit the field goal.

4. Third quarter: Mathews' 27-yard catch/run/hurdle
On 1st-and-10 at their own 45, Mathews took a short pass and sprinted 27 yards, ending it by hurdling a Vikings defender. It matched the game's longest play from scrimmage to that point (Vikings WR Adam Thielen had a 27-yard catch).

On the next play, Wentz dropped the snap but picked it up and tossed it to Sproles for a 19-yard gain to the Vikings' 9-yard line. The play resembled Sproles' 73-yard touchdown catch/run Week 3 against the Steelers.

After Wentz dropped yet another snap (his third of the game in addition to the botched handoff), he hit Dorial Green-Beckham, who barely crossed the goal line for the game's first offensive touchdown, a 5-yarder. 

5. Third quarter: Jordan Hicks bats ball in Bradford's face
This play didn't have a major overall impact but was just symbolic of how the Eagles' D besieged Bradford all afternoon. Hicks chased down Bradford and whacked the ball after Bradford tried to throw it away. 

The Eagles sacked Bradford six times, forced him to fumble four times and picked him off once. He completed 24 of 41 passes for 224 yards, a garbage-time TD, which helped boost his passer rating to 71.6.

6. Fourth quarter: Stopping Asiata on 4th-and-1 at the Eagles' 6-yard line
Matt Asiata's 29-yard run on 3rd-and-14 would have had this spot, but the drive ended when Allen and company stuffed Asiata here to get the Eagles the ball back.

7. Fourth quarter: Sherels' fumbled punt
The Eagles went nowhere in the following possession, and Donnie Jones got off a non-Donnie Jones-like punt that Sherels tried to catch on a bounce, didn't, and Trey Burton recovered it. 

The Eagles followed by driving 47 yards in nine plays for a 21-yard field goal that made it 21-3.

Instant Replay: Eagles 21, Vikings 10

The Associated Press

Instant Replay: Eagles 21, Vikings 10


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