The Winnipeg Jets have signed goaltender Steve Mason to a two-year contract worth $4.1 million per year, as first reported by Jeff Hamilton of the Winnipeg Free Press and later confirmed by Sportsnet’s John Shannon.
Steve Mason, 2 years…. 4.1 million per year.#SigningSeason
— John Shannon (@JSportsnet) July 1, 2017
The 29-year-old Mason spent the last four full seasons and part of the 2012-13 season with the Philadelphia Flyers after beginning his career with the Columbus Blue Jackets. He was traded to the Flyers in 2013. In 2008-09 with the Blue Jackets, Mason won the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year. He was also nominated for the Vezina Trophy (for the league’s top goaltender) that season.
After posting 33 wins with a goals-against average of 2.29 and a save percentage of .916, as well as 10 shutouts, in that rookie campaign, Mason has struggled to consistently match that form. Perhaps his best season since then was in 2014-15 with the Flyers. Despite only compiling 18 wins in 51 games that year, Mason had a sparkling save percentage of .928 to go along with a stingy goals-against average of 2.25.
Last season, Mason experienced his share of struggles. While picking up 26 wins for the Flyers in 58 games played (54 starts), Mason’s save percentage was a meager .908. His goals-against average of 2.66 was also fairly unimpressive, so he will be looking to rebound with the Jets.
Mason’s Role With Jets
Mason figures to serve as the backup to 24-year-old Connor Hellebuyck, who is a restricted free agent. That would seem to push 27-year-old Michael Hutchinson out of the mix, but it remains to be seen how the Jets will move forward in that regard.
One particularly noteworthy component to Mason’s signing is his average annual value (AAV). At $4.1 million per season, the Jets are investing quite a bit in someone who might just be their backup goalie. Given that amount and Mason’s experience as a starter, perhaps the Jets are thinking about more of a tandem in net with Mason and Hellebuyck. Or, they might just value an experienced insurance policy for their young starter.
Hellebuyck had a strong rookie season in 2015-16. In 26 games, he picked up 13 wins, but he also had a solid goals-against average of 2.34 and a save percentage of .918. The 2016-17 season, however, was a struggle. He had 26 wins in 56 games (53 starts) but his goals-against average ballooned to 2.89 while his save percentage dipped to .907.
Of course, a good defense typically plays into the effectiveness of goaltenders. If the Jets can improve in that regard and have Mason’s presence stabilize and even push Hellebuyck, that will be beneficial for them.
With Mason now in the fold for the next couple of years, the Jets have two viable starters. Despite their up-and-down numbers in recent seasons, both Mason and Hellebuyck are above average with respect to expected goals saved as well as low-danger save percentage and medium-danger save percentage over the past three seasons (Hellebuyck over the last two). With a good team in front of them, the results would likely be more visible.