Overall, goaltending is an organizational strength for the Rangers. Obviously, they have Henrik Lundqvist at the NHL level, and Igor Shestyorkin waiting to make his North American debut as the presumed heir apparent. Alexandar Georgiev made significant strides last season in his NHL debut, plus high ceiling prospects Adam Huska and Tyler Wall in the system. Chris Nell, Brandon Halverson and Olof Klefbom have become something of after thoughts, besides all being decent prospects in their own right. Don’t forget Marek Mazanec as AHL depth.
Despite all this, I am here this morning to advocate that the Rangers sign Steve Mason to back up Henrik Lundqvist this season. In case you missed it in the shuffle, Mason was traded by the Jets to Montreal in a salary dump trade. Winnipeg was hoping to clear cap space to make a run at re-signing Paul Stasny and they attached Joel Armia to Mason’s contract to clear the $4.1 million he was scheduled to make this season. Turned out, Stastny went to Vegas and Montreal had no plans for Mason themselves, so they bought the former Flyer and Blue Jacket out, making him a UFA.
For what it’s worth, I’m perfectly comfortable going into the season with Georgiev penciled in as the backup, but let’s talk out the reasons why Mason makes sense for the Rangers:
He should come cheap
When the free agent carousel stopped spinning on July 2, Mason was still left standing. Most teams have their goaltending situations sorted out by this point and if you are still unsigned in August, it’s usually PTO time.
I’m actually a little surprised that he hasn’t found his way to Europe at this point. I would throw a $1 million offer his way and see if he bites. If he wants to continue his NHL career, it might be his best opportunity.
Benoit Allaire could work wonders on him
Much more so than Ondrej Pavelec, Mason is the type of talent foundation tailor-made for Benoit Allaire. Despite being 30 (just as Pavelec was), Mason has already adopted a more modern playing style and technical foundation. He was able to find his game in Philly despite being on a very mediocre roster. I think that Allaire could help potentially resurrect his career and give the Rangers someone who could actually get Henrik Lundqvist off his feet for more than 25 starts.
He could be a mid-season trade trip
Now, we all know that goalie’s don’t fetch much in trades, but it’s not inconceivable to grab a 2nd rounder at the deadline from a team in need of insurance between the pipes. A cheap upfront investment + some Allaire magic = additional rebuild asset at the deadline. If it doesn’t work out, just cut him loose and I’m sure he would like to move on to Europe. Low risk asset management at work, right there.
It’s best for Georgiev’s development
Most knowledgable minds agree that Shestyorkin is more than likely going to be the Rangers next long-term starting goaltender. However, development doesn’t necessarily always work out the way we would like it to. Shestyorkin could have difficulty stateside and need a season in the AHL to get his feet wet. He could decide that he likes playing in Russia better. Who knows? Either way, Georgiev has shown the tools and composure to develop him as someone who could potentially start.
While Georgiev had a solid NHL debut, he had a good but not great season in the AHL (37gp, 2.98 GAA and .906 sv%). Granted, the AHL team was a tire fire, but he didn’t exactly dominate the level. I think you run the risk of stunting his development playing him 20 games at the NHL level in his age 22 season. I’d rather see him get 50 games in the AHL, with a steady backup in Mazanec to help him manage a true starter’s workload. Mason would give the Rangers the ability to stay the course with Georgiev’s development.
Lastly, and this is important. Steve Mason always has masks that depict his teammates as zombies. I know that I personally need to see zombie Henrik Lundqvist and definitely zombie Mats Zuccarello. These are not non-factors.
All kidding aside, I think the Rangers would benefit from the addition of Mason and vice versa. What do you all think?