VOORHEES, N.J. -- Steve Mason's future as a Flyer became rather bleak by the end of Wednesday's NHL trade deadline.
During a season in which the Flyers had to decide which, if either, of their two pending unrestricted free-agent goaltenders they would re-sign, the 28-year-old Mason seemed the logical favorite before the season began.
Except, Mason hasn't performed very well. Not that 28-year-old Michal Neuvirth has been that much better, either.
Yet, the oft-injured Neuvirth had the capacity to be a better salary cap fit in transitioning the Flyers to their future, younger, next goalie -- Anthony Stolarz, Alex Lyon or Carter Hart.
And that's what transpired as the Flyers re-signed Neuvirth to, according to a source, a cap-friendly two-year, $5 million deal on Wednesday morning (see story). That pretty much closes the picture for Mason, regardless of what general manager Ron Hextall said publicly afterward.
"We liked the term, and we liked the cap hit," Hextall said of Neuvirth's deal. "I did not want to go into July 1 with no goalie because that is a recipe for disaster. So we felt like this one was a reasonable deal, a reasonable term."
Now the Flyers have a goalie under contract for next season at a very low cost, one they can expose in the NHL expansion draft in June without having to expose Stolarz, which would have been their only other option.
That, too, crossed Hextall's mind.
"This gives us flexibility," Hextall said. "We had one choice before and now we have two. We have a goalie we feel very comfortable with. Neuvy has done a good job.
"Obviously, the injuries, we talked about that. If it weren't for the injuries, we wouldn't be talking about $2.5 cap hit, probably. Again, for multiple reasons, I didn't want to go into July 1 needing two goalies and the expansion draft."
As for Mason …
"That doesn't suggest we won't sign Mase, but just that the timing," Hextall said. "I wanted to get something done before the deadline."
The fact the Flyers have not had any contract talks with Mason's camp speaks volumes as to the likelihood of him re-signing.
Oddly enough, Mason had a shutout against Colorado on Tuesday and will get the net against Florida on Thursday.
Neuvirth has been slightly more consistent this season -- save for injury -- than Mason, who played well during the 10-game win streak and then seemed gassed.
"Neuvy has played some pretty good hockey," Hextall said. "Last year, they both did a pretty good job of picking each other up.
"When you get two really good goalies, that is what you hope for and this year it is has been the opposite. Neither of them have been hot enough. In saying that, we need to help them out more."
The Flyers could still sign a goalie in free agency. As for who the younger goalie will be next season, Hextall didn't flat out commit to Stolarz. Or any of his prospects.
"I can't answer that question right now," he said. "We'll monitor how our kids do … I feel a lot better right now where we have one guy in the fold.
"We're in a lot better position than a day ago. I didn't like having two guys as UFAs. We like Neuvy's deal. It's a fair deal. And when he's playing hockey, he's pretty damn good."