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Flyers believe Mason still has a lot of potential

by Adam Kimelman /

VOORHEES, N.J. -- In the opinion of Philadelphia Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren, Steve Mason remains a goaltender with a lot of potential.

That's why on Wednesday the GM acquired the 24-year-old goalie from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for goaltender Michael Leighton and a third-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.

Steve Mason
Goalie - PHI
RECORD: 3-6-1
GAA: 2.95 | SVP: 0.899

"We like Steve as a young goalie," Holmgren said. "We still think there's tremendous upside there. We'll bring him in and work with him and try to help him achieve his goals of becoming a better goalie as well."

After a spectacular debut season that saw him backstop the Blue Jackets to the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs and win the Calder Trophy, Mason had three straight seasons with a goals-against average above 3.00.

This season, he's 3-6-1 in 13 games with a 2.95 GAA and .899 save percentage.

He began this season competing for playing time with Sergei Bobrovsky, but Bobrovsky -- acquired from the Flyers in June -- emerged as the full-time starter. Bobrovsky has elevated his game in the past month, dropping Mason into the backup role.

"I think he's bounced back a little better this year," Holmgren said of Mason. "Sergei has taken over the spot there. Steve is still a young goalie, still has a lot of upside. Jeff Reese, our goalie coach, studies a lot of goalies and he likes Steve, thinks there's something there."

Reese said he believes Mason's struggles the past few seasons have been as much mental as physical.

"Right now he's lost his swagger," Reese told "We're going to see if we can get it back."

Mason said he's ready for a fresh start.

"I'm extremely excited, really looking forward to a fresh opportunity," Mason said in an interview with TSN. "I'm going to a great organization with some players I have some history with with the World Juniors. Just really looking forward to meeting the new guys and starting off fresh."

Reese agrees that a change in scenery could be just what Mason needs to rediscover his game.

"He had a good first year," Reese said. "He's been beaten down a little bit. Things haven't gone great for him there. It's good for him to get a change. I think we're going to start him off slow and we'll work at parts of his game and go from there.

"He's only 24 years old. He's got plenty of time to become a No. 1 goalie. He's not even close to his prime yet. We're excited to have him."

Mason already knows some of his new teammates -- he joined Wayne Simmonds, Claude Giroux and Luke Schenn on the team that won the gold at the 2008 World Junior Championship. Mason was named the tournament's best goalie and MVP.

"I put a lot of expectations on myself," Mason said. "When bad things happen, you see the snowball effect and I couldn't get out of it. With a fresh start, you forget all the negative things and go into a positive situation and try to make the most out of it. Going to Philadelphia, with [Ilya] Bryzgalov, I'm looking forward to working with him and moving forward on things."

Mason can become a restricted free agent after the season, but Holmgren said he's already spoken with Mason's agent about a new contract, and said he hoped to have him signed to a deal prior to the end of the season.

Holmgren said Mason should arrive in Philadelphia in time to join the team for its charter flight to Toronto on Thursday. Cal Heeter was recalled from the Adirondack Phantoms of the American Hockey League to serve as the backup to Bryzgalov for the Wednesday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens.

The Flyers also claimed forward Adam Hall on waivers, a move Holmgren said was needed after forward Maxime Talbot was lost for the remainder of the season with a broken leg sustained during a game March 31 against the Washington Capitals.

Hall has four assists in 26 games this season with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes. He started the season with the Lightning, was claimed on waivers by the Hurricanes, traded back to the Lightning on Tuesday, and placed on waivers later that day.

"Adam is a guy that's been around," Holmgren said. "He's a bigger guy, can play left wing, center, right wing. It's depth and experience. … I like Adam. I've worked with him in some USA Hockey stuff over the years. He's a good kid, works hard. He can play any position. You lose a guy like Max, who kills penalties for us, takes big faceoffs and plays all around the lineup, we need to address that. We don't have that player internally who's ready, we believe. This was an obvious, easy decision to make today when I saw him name on waivers yesterday."

Holmgren said despite the team entering the game Wednesday 13th in the Eastern Conference, he always looked at himself as a buyer. He also said he wasn't interested in moving out any of his young core of players, a group that includes Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn.

"We like our young group," Holmgren said. "I think we can still make a little push here. We'll see what happens over the final 13 games. We have a lot of good young players that we like and a lot of other teams like them, too. We didn't want to do anything to disrupt that. We'll ride out the rest of the year and try to make our playoff push and see what happens."


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