What Steve Mason Must Do to Live Up to His New Contract with Philadelphia Flyers

Brad KurtzbergContributor IJanuary 20, 2014

The Flyers have signed Steve Mason to an extension.
The Flyers have signed Steve Mason to an extension.Elsa/Getty Images

The Philadelphia Flyers recently signed starting goalie Steve Mason to a contract extension. The terms of the deal were three years and $12.3 million.

The deal appears to make sense for both sides. The Flyers get a goalie who—at 25—should just be entering his prime. He has also played very well for Philadelphia this season. Thus far, Mason is 19-11-5 with a 2.56 GAA and a .915 save percentage.

Mason was on a one-year contract, so had the Flyers not inked him to a new deal, he would have been able to test the market this summer as an unrestricted free agent.

Love the deal, or hate it, here are the things Mason needs to do to make this contract work out well for both the Flyers and himself.

First, Mason must be the player he has been in Philadelphia this season, or the player he was in his rookie year with the Columbus Blue Jackets. In between, his GAA was never lower than 2.95—that wouldn't result in many wins for any team.

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren was particularly impressed with the way Mason played early in this season when the Flyers offense was struggling.

"If you look at this season in a nutshell, he was good when the team was real bad early in the year," Holmgren told NHL.com. "He's a good goalie, and we believe he's going to get better. That's why we did what we did."

Mason must be consistent. It was inconsistency and the failure to live up to the high standard of play he recorded in his Calder Trophy-winning season that caused him to be traded out of Columbus in the first place.

Mason's playoff performance will be the key for the Flyers.
Mason's playoff performance will be the key for the Flyers.Norm Hall/Getty Images

He must also exhibit the leadership he showed early in the season. There was no doubt that playing in front of Mason gave the team confidence early in October. The Flyers scored only 11 goals in their first eight games but were never blown out of any contests in large part due to Mason. That kind of confidence must continue.

Most importantly, however, Mason must lead the Flyers to the playoffs and play well once he gets there.

When you think of the best and most popular goalies in franchise history, it's their playoff excellence that got them to that level. Bernie Parent won a pair of Stanley Cups and a pair of Conn Smythe Trophies for the Flyers. Ron Hextall won the Conn Smythe in 1987 after leading the team back to the Stanley Cup Final with his outstanding goaltending.

If Mason excels in the regular season but plays poorly in the playoffs, consider this deal a dud. If it happens just twice, or perhaps even once, the deal will not be considered a productive one for the Flyers. Mason needs to play well in the regular season and pick his game up a notch—or even two—in the playoffs.