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Mason's acquisition gives Blues depth in goal

by Larry Wigge

The Blues dealt a fourth-round pick to the Nashville Predators for Chris Mason.
 WATCH Chris Mason in action
St. Louis President John Davidson couldn't think for a minute how to describe the Blues' need in goal.

While Manny Legace was the team's MVP this past season, he's a small guy and shouldn't have to play 28 consecutive games -- as he did from Jan. 13 to March 11. With a bad knee, it was not in Legace's best interest to play a career-high 66 games, when he had never played more than 51.

There were numerous times that coach Andy Murray would have loved to give Legace a couple of days off, but he couldn't count on Hannu Toivonen, especially in the second half of the season.

"We don't want Manny playing 65 games or so again this season, not even close," Davidson said. "When we looked at our needs, that goaltending position behind Manny wasn't just a huge hole ... but it was a crater."

Davidson knew he had to do something about it -- and he did. The Blues dealt a fourth-round pick to the Nashville Predators for Chris Mason.

"In Chris Mason, we got a guy we have seen a lot of. He's a hard worker, a character player," Davidson said. "Great in the room. Most of all he's competitive -- and that competition is what we need to get to where we want to be next season."

Murray coached Mason with Team Canada at the World Championships in the past, plus he's faced Mason numerous times in Central Division meetings between the Blues and Predators.

"To me, Mason was their No. 1 goalie last season," Murray said, after seeing Mason post a 6-1 record against the Blues, with a 2.09 goals-against average during one stretch. "He's a character guy. He's one of those great stories of a guy who was told he couldn't play at several points on his road to the NHL and he has busted his butt to find a way to win at this level."

Mason, 32, became a problem for the Predators with his $3 million salary for the next two seasons. Meanwhile, the Blues yearned to have a quality backup for Legace.

Mason had a 12-5-1 record backing up Tomas Vokoun in Nashville in 2005-06. He followed that with a 24-11-4 mark with four shutouts in 2006-07, and actually started 21 consecutive games while Vokoun was out with an injury. Although Mason stumbled to an 18-22-6 record last season after taking the No. 1 job from the traded Vokoun, he gives St. Louis much-need relief in the crease.

The Blues had only six wins by Toivonen, their primary backup, last season. The season before, backup Curtis Sanford posted eight wins. In 2005-06, backups Patrick Lalime and Jason Bacashihua combined for eight victories.

The last time the team had a backup with at least 12 wins was 2002-03, when Fred Braithwaite seconded Brent Johnson for most of the season and then was dropped to No. 3 after Chris Osgood was acquired from the New York Islanders.

With those numbers in mind, sending a fourth-round pick for Mason was a bargain in the mind of the Blues.

"We could not go into the season waiting to find another goaltender," Davidson said. "And we weren't going to wait until July 1 to get a goalie.

"Bottom line: We had to fill in that crater right now."


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