Of all the weekend's rumors, why G Chris Mason to the Lightning makes some sense
The Lightning was mentioned in a few rumors during what was a very quiet draft weekend in Los Angeles. There was the report the team had at least inquired about Maple Leafs defenseman Tomas Kaberle. Tampa Bay also was mentioned as having interest in the negotiating rights to San Jose’s Evgeni Nabokov and St. Louis’ Chris Mason, both goaltenders who could become unrestricted free agents.
Which rumor might made the most sense? The Lightning’s interest in Mason.
Consider the costs. Kaberle is owed $4.25 million next season, the last year of his contract. In order for the Lightning to handle that, it would have to send some salary back to Toronto. But the Leafs want a rugged first-line forward. Left wing Ryan Malone fits that description, but would removing a top-six forward from a team that has had trouble putting together two consistent offensive lines be prudent? The way the team is constructed now, it seems a tough sell.
As for Nabokov, whose rights apparently are headed to the Flyers, he made $5.35 million last season and likely isn’t looking for a pay cut.
Then there is Mason, 34, who made $3 million next season and had a pretty good year, going 30-22-8 for a non-playoff team with a 2.52 goals-against average and .913 save percentage.
Many factors will be at work on the goaltending market during free agency. For one, there is a glut of goalies out there, which should help control prices (might some goalies actually take a salary cut?) in the secondary market, which is where the Lightning, as GM Steve Yzerman has said, is more likely to shop.
Mason wants a chance to be a starter -- and given Tampa Bay’s chronic goaltending struggles, and the fact that neither Mike Smith nor Antero Niittymaki showed last season they can handle the No. 1 load, and that Niittymaki, a potential unrestricted free agent, may not be back – someone with Mason’s consistency the past few seasons might not be a bad option.
A two-year contract until either Dustin Tokarski or Jaroslav Janus is ready, or Karri Ramo returns from Russia? Sounds like it could work. Not that it will happen that way, but it is something, it would seem, to consider.
Whatever happens, Yzerman said again this weekend not to expect a big splash on July 1. He sounds like he wants to see where the markets will settle, at defense also, before considering any moves.
Other goalies expected to hit the market include: Marty Turco, Michael Leighton, Dan Ellis (also intriguing), Martin Biron, Jose Theodore.