NHL Trade Rumors: Columbus Blue Jackets Looking to Solve Goaltending Issue

Patrick Drottar@pdrottarCorrespondent INovember 7, 2011

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 5: Steve Mason #1 of the Columbus Blue Jackets looks at the ice during a break in the game action in the second period against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on November 5, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)
Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images

Last Thursday the Columbus Blue Jackets lost a 4-1 game against the Toronto Maple Leafs to fall to a abysmal 2-10-1, good for dead last in the league. Jacket fans did not think it could get much worse, but unfortunately, they were proven wrong when the team traveled to Philadelphia to face the Flyers.

Over the weekend, the Blue Jackets were embarrassed by the Flyers in a 9-2 romp that saw eight goals given up in the first 40 minutes.

Goaltender Steve Mason got the start and quickly fell apart as he allowed a Flyer goal by James van Riemsdyk on the very first shot taken. It all went downhill from there as the Flyers dominated the Jackets on every level and made many Jacket fans change the channel in disgust.

Mason was pulled towards the end of the first for rookie Allen York, only to go back in at the start of the second period after York gave up two quick goals.

With a long break in between the weekend and their next game against the Chicago Blackhawks, there was a feeling that some changes would be made to try and find a spark for the team. As of now, head coach Scott Arniel and general manager Scott Howson are safe.

The same, however, cannot be said for Steve Mason. So far this season, Mason has shown some flashes of brilliance, but he cannot sustain it for long periods of time.

After several unimpressive starts (3.70 goals against average and a .869 Save Percentage), the 23-year-old may be out of chances to prove he can return to the form that won him the Calder Trophy in his rookie season.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 27:  Chris Mason #50 of the Winnipeg Jets tends net in warmups prior to the game against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on October 27, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Jets defeated the Flyers 9-8.  (Ph
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images


It was reported today by Eklund at HockyBuzz.com that the Jackets are in discussions with a couple of teams about trading for a goalie. The two names that have popped up are Winnipeg Jets backup Chris Mason and San Jose Sharks' Antero Niittymaki.

For now, the leading candidate seems to be Chris Mason as Niittymaki is still recovering from a hip injury. The seven-year veteran is on track to return in mid-December.

Mason was also out earlier this season due to a groin injury that sidelined him, but he could return to the lineup for Winnipeg as soon as Tuesday.

Both goaltenders have been career backups in their time in the NHL, but have decent numbers.

In nine years in the NHL, Chris Mason has compiled 129 wins, with a 2.63 goals against average and a .911 save percentage. Two seasons ago with the St. Louis Blues, Mason had a career year with 30 wins, with a 2.53 goals against average and two shutouts.

Niittymaki has yet to play this season, but had a decent season last year backing up Antti Niemi, recording 12 wins in 22 starts with a 2.71 goals against average and a .896 save percentage. Unfortunately for Niittymaki, the Sharks are set at the goaltending position with Niemi and youngster Thomas Greiss, making Niittymaki expendable.

Whoever the Blue Jackets choose to take over at the goaltending position, it will signal the end of Steve Mason's time as the team's No. 1 goaltender.

After struggling with inconsistency for the past two seasons, it was surprising when Scott Howson gave him yet another chance instead of looking to improve the position during the offseason. The decision could be the one that costs Howson his job if he cannot fix it soon.

This is just the start of many changes that could happen in the future for the Columbus Blue Jackets if they cannot turn things around.