Steve Mason's career with Flyers appears to have ended
It appears as if Steve Mason, the third-winningest goalie in Flyers history, will be playing elsewhere next season.
The Flyers are on the verge of cutting ties with goalie Steve Mason, according to his agent, Anton Thun.
Mason, 29, the Flyers' main goaltender the last four seasons, can become an unrestricted free agent July 1.
Thun said Wednesday that he and Flyers general manager Ron Hextall have talked recently but have not had any formal contract negotiations. "Unless something changes between now and July 1, he'll be going into free agency," Thun said.
The agent said he expects Mason — whose 104 wins with the Flyers are third in franchise history, behind Hextall (240) and Bernie Parent (232) — to be headed to another team.
"In all honesty, he would have hoped the Flyers would have been interested enough to enter into contract negotiations with him right now, but they didn't, so you move on," Thun said. "That's business."
Hextall declined to comment.
As of now, the Flyers' top two goalies are injury-prone Michal Neuvirth, who is coming off a subpar season (2.82 goals-against average, .891 save percentage), and Anthony Stolarz, a Jackson, N.J., native who played well in seven NHL games in 2016-17, compiling a 2.07 GAA and a .928 save percentage. Stolarz, 23, underwent surgery in April to repair a torn medial collateral ligament in his right knee and is recovering nicely, a source said.
Neuvirth's save percentage was the worst in the NHL among goalies with at least 15 appearances.
Barring a trade, one of those two goalies will be exposed to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft. The Golden Knights' selections will be announced next Wednesday.
Thun seemed surprised at the Flyers' lack of interest in Mason. They did not negotiate during the season.
"If I was running the team, I'd sign Steve Mason, but of course I'm biased," Thun said. "They made a decision to sign Michal Neuvirth, which was their choice. I think it probably surprised a bunch of people, but, again, that's the Flyers' choice and we just have to react to that."
Neuvirth, 29, signed a two-year deal for a total of $5 million on March 1. The Flyers hope he can revert to his form from 2015-16 (2.27, .924 ), when he had a career season.
"At the end of the day, there's a goalie marketplace out there, and I think there will be significant opportunities out there for Steve," Thun said.
Since the season ended, potential free agents Ben Bishop and Scott Darling signed with Dallas and Carolina, respectively. That makes Mason, Brian Elliott, Jonathan Bernier, Anders Nilsson, Keith Kinkaid, and the aging Ryan Miller among the free-agent goalies who could be on the market July 1.
Vegas will have first crack at the unrestricted free agents. They can negotiate with them during a 72-hour period starting Sunday at 10 a.m.
"There's also going to be some movement in terms of [goaltenders] being traded," Thun said. "There's talk that Phoenix might move Mike Smith. Obviously, people are talking about Marc-Andre Fleury [possibly] no longer being a Pittsburgh Penguin, so there's going to be a shuffling of the deck chairs of goaltenders over the next two weeks. Where they end up, who knows?"
Mason did not respond to an interview request Wednesday. At the end of the season, he sounded as if he thought he had played his last game for the Flyers.
He criticized the way he was used last season, saying that goalies need "defined roles" and that a platoon system "doesn't work. And it's shown throughout the league that it doesn't work."
Mason and Neuvirth divided duties until Neuvirth was injured. Mason (2.66 goals-against average, .908 save percentage) was inconsistent early in the season but excelled during the team's 10-game winning streak and finished strong. Late in the season, Mason became the No. 1 goalie and went 10-5-2 with a 2.14 goals-against average and .926 save percentage in his last 17 appearances.
"Every single team needs a defined starter and backup goalie," he said after the season. "Just having that clarity would have simplified it a lot. At the end of the season, just having that clarity, the results showed."