The Columbus Blue Jackets selected goaltender, Steve Mason, in the third round (69th overall) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. Mason began the 2007-08 season in Columbus but was nothing more than a healthy scratch for the first two games. The lack of use led to the Blue Jackets sending the young netminder back to the OHL to play for the London Knights. He competed in the 2008 World Junior Championships for Canada and won a gold medal. Though London traded Mason to the Kitchener Rangers during the tournament, the Blue Jackets recalled him after the WJC on an emergency basis. He did not play a game while with Columbus and the organization returned him to Kitchener. Towards the end of the OHL regular season, Mason suffered a knee injury. He attempted to play through the injury but was pulled from the OHL playoffs to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery. The Rangers won the OHL championship without Mason and lost in the Memorial Cup final to the Spokane Chiefs.
Mason began his first professional hockey season in 2008-09. However, he missed the first month of the season after undergoing additional knee surgery. Upon his recovery, Mason played three games in the AHL before Columbus called him up on November 4th. He made his NHL debut the next night against Edmonton. Less than a month later, Mason recorded his first shutout against the Thrashers. After winning NHL Rookie of the Month for November, the Blue Jackets kept feeding their young goalie starts. The NHL crowned him Rookie of the Month again in December, in which he recorded three straight shutouts. Mason finished the regular season going 33-20-7 with a .916 SV% and a 2.29 GAA. His remarkable year ended with the Calder Memorial Trophy, making him the league’s Rookie of the Year. Additionally, Mason was nominated for the Vezina Trophy. Unfortunately, he lost to Tim Thomas.
Mason played three more years in Columbus. Much to the dismay of everyone involved, he could never replicate the success of his rookie year.
The Philadelphia Flyers Acquire Steve Mason from Columbus
On April 3, 2013, Columbus traded Mason to Philadelphia in exchange for Michael Leighton and a 2015 third round draft pick. Five days later, Mason signed a one-year deal with the Flyers. The sample size was small, but Mason put together an impressive seven games after the trade. Speculation then arose that Mason would replace Ilya Bryzgalov as Philadelphia’s starting goalie the following year. Of course, we know this became true, as the Flyers bought-out Bryzgalov’s monstrous contract that summer.
In his four-plus years with Philadelphia, Mason proved to be a serviceable starting netminder. Unfortunately, he was streaky, and lack of offensive support sometimes masked his production. In his final year with the Flyers, Mason shared the crease with Michal Neuvirth. Mason was not shy about his displeasure with this situation as he felt a team could only succeed with goalies having defined roles.
In the summer of 2017, Philadelphia elected to let Mason walk, making him an unrestricted free agent. He then signed a two-year, $8.2 million deal with the Winnipeg Jets. As we all know, that did not work out too well.
Transaction Grade: B+
As is the case with many players, there are mixed feelings about Steve Mason and his time in Philadelphia. Whether you liked him in orange and black or not, it is hard to ignore that the Flyers flat out won this trade. Though Leighton proved to be a top-notch AHL netminder, that’s all he was in the end. Columbus dealt the third round pick they received to Toronto. Maybe Mason never recaptured the success of his rookie year again. However, he certainly played better for Philadelphia.
When you look at the trade and the trade alone, Philadelphia received a starting netminder for essentially nothing. It’s hard to beat that.