The Philadelphia Flyers signed Steve Mason to a three-year $12.1 million contract on Saturday, resulting in a $4.1 million cap hit for the club. Since being acquired from Columbus late in the 2013 season, Mason has been a bit of a lightning rod.
After winning the Calder Trophy in his rookie campaign, Mason followed it up with three and a half years of very poor play. However, after joining the Flyers he played exceptionally well. It led to some fervent debates about whether Mason had turned over a new leaf.
When judging a contract, I firmly believe you need to consider two things: 1) the contract comparables and 2) the player’s performance.
Let’s begin with the contract comparables. First and foremost, Mason’s contract will place him as the 14th highest paid goaltender next season, per Capgeek.
In that respect it’s nice to see that Mason will be falling into the middle of the pack. However, it’s not good enough just to compare cap hits as the ever-changing salary cap must be considered. The best way to approach that is to consider the percentage of the cap that the contract is consuming at the time it was signed.
For example, Jaroslav Halak’s $3.75 million, signed in 2010, was equivalent to 6.3% of that season’s upper limit of $59.4 million. Mason’s $4.1 million will account for approximately 5.7% of an estimated $71 million cap for next season.
If we look at those same top-20 goaltenders and calculate their percentage of the cap, we get the following:
Steve Mason comes in at 15, accounting for 5.77% of an estimated $71 million cap. Truthfully, that’s much better than I had expected.
With the contract comparables out of the way it’s just a matter of player performance. Is his play deserving of that contract? This is where things get tricky.
I’m a big fan of even strength save percentage as a means of judging a goaltender’s talent. It eliminates special teams which is something a goaltender can’t control. Unfortunately, Mason isn’t particularly good this season.
Even with the age issue in mind, Mason still is 35th among goalies in EVSV% this year http://t.co/7RRHOC4PpG
— Corey Pronman (@coreypronman) January 18, 2014
He started off the season on a complete tear, but since then…it’s the Mason we kind of feared getting.
Mason in Oct/Nov: 19 GP, .938 save percentage. Dec/Jan: 17 GP, .895 save percentage.
— Corey Sznajder (@ShutdownLine) January 18, 2014
Steve Mason is recreating his 2008-09 performance. This is scary stuff if you’re an advocate of signing him long-term pic.twitter.com/J8DxMldAaO
— Justin Brennan (@HeyItsBrenno) January 17, 2014
Mason’s issue since entering the league has been an inability to play at a consistently high level. Even in his heralded Calder season, the one many people were hoping he would get back to, he only had three months of a save percentage over .910.
Since that season he pretty much had two good months every year. The rest were quite poor. He came to the Flyers and ended last season on fire; but this year after an incredible two months, we’ve again seen poor play. (Author’s note: I haven’t felt Mason has looked particularly bad but he’s clearly not at the same level he was to start this season.)
I’ve tried to be optimistic about Steve Mason from Day 1. I thought it was a nice calculated risk to acquire him for very little. At the same time, I’ve tried to preach patience (as have others here at FF) and I will fully admit I was not, and am not, overly quick to buy into his drastic turnaround.
Exhibit A: Steve Mason, our next goaltender or the next Michael Leighton?
Exhibit B: Crashing the Crease: Steve Mason and the Case for Temperance
Exhibit C: Crashing the Crease: Steve Mason, Expectation and Reality
I just have not seen enough from Steve Mason to convince me he has made a dramatic change in his play. At the same time, I don’t think he’s been a disaster by any means. As I mentioned earlier, even during these past two months where his save percentage is less than…well, good…I’ve rarely felt that Mason looked terrible.
When it comes down to it, I think Mason is a goaltender who has near-elite, if not elite tools but he still has not shown me he is capable of putting it all together. However, the fact of the matter is, the Flyers are still getting better goaltending than they have in the past two years (and probably longer).
I’m not particularly a fan of the contract, but it is not crippling by any means. I will continue to be cautiously optimistic about Steve Mason.