Michal Neuvirth over Steve Mason? Flyers bungle yet another goalie situation

Michal Neuvirth over Steve Mason? Flyers bungle yet another goalie situation

It seemed like a fitting end to Steve Mason's career in Philadelphia -- once again proving he's better than the goalie the Flyers decided to keep -- pitching a 33-save shutout Tuesday to snap a two-game skid to get the orange and black a much-needed two points.

The news began to bleed out on social media during Mason's blanking of the Avalanche that the Flyers were negotiating a contract extension with Michal Neuvirth less than 24 hours before the trade deadline. If they re-signed Neuvirth before the deadline, could Mason be traded? Speculation flowed until a little after 1 p.m. Wednesday -- two hours before the deadline -- when the Flyers made their choice.

On Wednesday, the Flyers signed Neuvirth to a two-year, $5 million extension in a move general manager Ron Hextall described as giving the team options for the expansion draft -- they now have the option of choosing between two goalies to expose rather than one -- and a deal that gives the Flyers flexibility. And re-signing Neuvirth "doesn't suggest we won't sign Mase," Hextall said, as the deadline passed with Mason staying put. But it did signal something to Mason and the rest of us.

The Flyers are ready to move on from Mason after this season.

"It just clarifies things and puts your guessing game away from the forefront of your mind," Mason said Thursday. "We just had no indication it was in their cards. I basically just never even planned on it. It would be different if there were conversations, but there were none. You kind of put it on the backburner and focus on trying to win hockey games."

So where do the Flyers go from here? It's true -- re-signing Neuvirth does not necessarily mean Mason's tenure in Philly will end come July 1. Mason could still sign with the Flyers. Re-signing Neuvirth could simply have been a move to have a goalie to expose to Las Vegas that isn't 22-year-old Anthony Stolarz. But a two-year contract suggests Neuvirth is the Flyers' stopgap goalie until one of their highly-touted goalie prospects are ready.

In reality, neither Mason nor Neuvirth will be the goaltender here when the Flyers are ready to compete for a Cup. Either one would have been a placeholder until a kid is equipped to take the reins of the No. 1 goaltending job. Neuvirth's contract also suggests Hextall believes one of them will be ready to be the guy in three years and that Stolarz will be able to handle an NHL backup role next season. The long view says re-signing Neuvirth for two years at a reasonable $2.5 million annual average value isn't a killer. From a cap perspective, it computes, too. (Mason will likely carry a higher cap hit in his next deal.) Why pay a goalie more money than you have to if you don't see him as the future?

But the immediate reaction is the Flyers bungled another goaltending situation, fell in love with Neuvirth and placed a goalie who's consistently been above average since coming here in the doghouse. Some things never change, even when the future remains bright.

There is no argument that Neuvirth has been solid since signing here in July 2015 ... when healthy. That's the thing with Neuvirth: He's injury prone and has been his entire career. It's part of the reason why Neuvirth has yet to find himself a long-term contract. He's an athletic goalie with plenty of talent. The argument is, well, Neuvirth is not the better goalie of the two. And if playoffs are the goal this season, next and the year after, Mason would have been the right goalie to go with.

This season, neither goalie has played out of his mind. The overall product of both has been mediocre at best. Still, Mason has been the stronger of the two.

The numbers back it up, too. Mason has a .905 save percentage; Neuvirth's is .887, an NHL-worst among qualified goalies. Mason has a 2.78 goals-against average to Neuvirth's 2.90. Mason has two shutouts; Neuvirth has none. Neither stat line is respectable.

A fair argument could be made the Flyers should move on from both Mason and Neuvirth after this season. That still remains a possibility if the Golden Knights take Neuvirth in the expansion draft. There is a connection with Neuvirth and Vegas GM George McPhee from when McPhee was the general manager of the Capitals. McPhee did draft Neuvirth in 2006. It also remains possible Vegas takes Neuvirth in the expansion draft and the Flyers re-sign Mason. We don't know the end game yet, but right now it doesn't appear Mason will be back.

If this does signal the end of the Mason era in Philadelphia is coming, Mason deserved better.

Now in his fifth year with the Flyers, Mason came at a time the team needed stability in net after the Bryz-aster. He provided just that. Mason came from Columbus after losing his way mentally and found his confidence under the tutelage of Jeff Reese, who left the Flyers in the middle of the 2015-16 season, reportedly over the Flyers' handling of Mason's injuries.

When Mason's time in Philly comes to an end -- the writing's on the wall -- he'll depart the Flyers as one of their most underappreciated players, at least by the fan base. Mason's 96 wins with the Flyers rank third in franchise history. His .918 save percentage is second to Roman Cechmanek's .923. Not too long ago, Mason returned from a concussion in Game 4 to nearly lead the Flyers past a much better Rangers team in a seven-game series loss in 2014. He was a major reason why they made the playoffs last season.

The knock on Mason is that he's fragile in the confidence department. The competition with Neuvirth hasn't brought out the best of Mason, and he plays better when he knows he's the starting goalie. When Dave Hakstol decided to start Neuvirth over Mason in the season opener despite Mason's strong preseason, it appeared to impact Mason.

When we digest the Neuvirth extension, one question that remains: Why would Mason want to re-sign here now?

There aren't many reasons he would want to come back. Neuvirth's contract signals the Flyers want a reasonable cap hit in net, which suggests they'd want Mason to take a pay cut from the $4.1 million he's making this season. Why take a pay cut to split time and be a band-aid?

Factor in the situation with Reese, Hakstol's handling of the tandem this season and what's coming, and there isn't much incentive for Mason to return. He'll be an attractive item on the free-agent market. Dallas, where Reese is the goalie coach, could be an option.

Signing Neuvirth for two seasons aligns with the Flyers' overall course. But remember, they opted to go with the lesser, cheaper of the two while the kids grow up. And really, that's OK.

But what do you know? It's 2017 and we're still talking goaltenders.

Welcome to Philadelphia.

Sights and scenes from Flyers' 2019-20 'Meet the Team' day for fans

Sights and scenes from Flyers' 2019-20 'Meet the Team' day for fans

Before welcoming the rival Penguins to the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night, the Flyers hosted their fans Sunday for the annual "Meet the Team" event.

The day consists of season ticket holders getting to meet their favorite players, take pictures, ask for autographs and skate on the Wells Fargo Center ice.

Following Tuesday's game, the Flyers go on their NHL-mandated bye week from Jan. 22-30.

So Sunday gave the fans a timely up-close-and-personal look at their 2019-20 Flyers before the extended break.

Here are some sights and scenes from the event:

(Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers)

(Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers)

(Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers)

(Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers)

(Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers)

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Bring on the nostalgia as Flyers 80s night takes you back in time

AP Images/NBC Sports Philadelphia

Bring on the nostalgia as Flyers 80s night takes you back in time

Couldn't make it out to 80s night at the Wells Fargo Center? Fret not. The wonderful existence of social media will allow you to feel the nostalgia of the decade.

Or at least what it would have been like ... since I was born in '97.

The Flyers hosted the Kings Saturday night and pulled out a 4-1 victory (see observations). Aside from the exciting performance from the orange and black on the ice, what the Flyers were able to put together off the ice made for a perfect event … if you liked the 80s, teased hair, neon colors and parachute pants, of course.

To kick things off, the Flyers and their in-arena host Andrea Helfrich released videos leading up to puck drop with some of the biggest hits and games of the decade.

While Justin Braun didn't seem too thrilled with the game choices, Michael Raffl was having a field day.

We even got to hear Jakub Voracek and Kevin Hayes jam out to two iconic songs and has us wondering if there are any other videos of the team singing and if so, send them our way.

Side note — is anyone else jealous of Hayes' vocal range?

Of course, one of the most exciting parts of a theme night has to be the attire ... and everyone was joining in on the fun.

And c'mon. Gritty dressed as Mr. T? I pity the fools who don't like this kind of content.

The Flyers outdid themselves with the graphics tonight, too. From the in-arena content, to social media — it certainly made everyone wish that every night could be 80's night.


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