With a new NHL team headed for the city of Las Vegas, an NHL expansion draft will take place on Saturday June 20, 2017. Las Vegas will be the 8th team in the Pacific Division, and the 15th team in the Western Conference. According to NHL.com, the following rules will apply for the expansion draft:
Clubs will have two options for players they would like to protect.
1. They can either protect seven forwards, three defenseman, and one goaltender.
2. Eight forwards/defenseman, and one goaltender.
Any player that declines to waive their no trade clauses in their current contracts, must automatically be protected. That player will count towards the protection limits as stated above. All first and second year professionals will be exempt from selection.
The expansion franchise:
The Las Vegas franchise must select one player from each existing club for a total of 30 players. Las Vegas must select 14 forwards, 9 defenseman and 3 goaltenders. They must select 20 players that are currently under contract for the 2017-18 season.
With all the rules and regulations set forth by the NHL, Ron Hextall has some tough decisions looming. This Part 1 of 3 segment will focus on the goaltenders. Should Hextall protect Steve Mason or Michael Neuvirth? Lets break them both down to have a gauge on who Hextall plans to protect.
Steve Mason was born on May 29, 1988 in Oakville, Canada. Mason was traded to the Flyers from the Columbus Blue Jackets on April 3, 2013 and he played in six games for them to close out the season. He went 4-2 with a 1.90 GAA, and a save percentage of .944.
Mason has been a solid goaltender for the Flyers since coming over from the Columbus Blue Jackets. For his career with the Flyers as of Friday January 20, 2017, he has posted a 92-70-34 record, 2.55 GAA, and .915 save percentage.
Mason is either hot or cold at times. There seems to be no in between with him. He will make tough save after tough save, but he will typically let in a soft goal or two.
Last years playoff series against the Washington Capitals is one perfect example. With the Flyers trailing the 2nd game of the series 1-0, Jason Chimera scored from center ice making the score 2-0 Capitals. The Capitals went on to win that game 4-1, but that goal appeared to suck the life out of the club for that game.
A great Steve Mason during the ten game win streak this season saw him posting an 8-0 record, and allowing only 19 goals on 256 shots faced. At age 28, he is a solid goaltender, and a one or two year deal could be a possibility. With the growth of Anthony Stolarz and Alex Lyon, a long term deal is highly unlikely. He is more durable than Michael Neuvirth, and that might be the deciding factor in him staying with the team if he chooses to do so.
Michal Neuvirth was born on March 23, 1988 in Ustinad Labem, Czechoslovakia. He began his pro career with the Washington Capitals and he made his debut on October 8, 2009. He made 27 saves in a 4-2 loss against the Atlanta Thrashers.
With Brandon Holtby starting to take the reigns as a number one goaltender, the Washington Capitals decided to move on without him. He was signed as a free agent by the Philadelphia Flyers on July 1, 2015. He signed this two year deal knowing he was primarily serving as Steve Mason’s backup.
Neuvirth had a solid first season with the Flyers, posting an 18-8-4 record in 32 games played, 2.27 GAA, and a .924 save percentage. He had five injuries with the Flyers last season, and that possibly limited his appearances for the season.
Although, he had some setbacks with injuries last season, he shined in his three playoff appearances for the Flyers. Dave Hakstol decided to make a goaltending switch in game 4 against the Capitals. Neuvirth must have been determined to upset his former team, as he was virtually unbeatable making 31 saves en route to a Flyers 2-1 win. That win saved the season, and extended the series against the Capitals.
Neuvirth was unbeatable in game 5, shutting out his former club 2-0 thus forcing a game 6. The Flyers lost game 6 1-0, but it cemented Neuvirth as possibly being the main guy for the Flyers in net next season. Neuvirth ended the playoffs with a 1.00 GAA, and astounding .987 save percentage.
Neuvirth appears to play well under pressure, and that may be one main reason the Flyers retain him. Two weeks ago, he made a relief appearance against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He made 24 saves en route to a Flyers 4-2 victory. This win was huge as the Lightning are a team chasing them for the last wild card spot.
His major downfall is his durability. Neuvirth injured his left knee on November 12, 2016, and it sidelined him for six weeks. He returned against the Tampa Bay Lightning on January 12. That was his sixth injury as a Flyer.
As of Friday January 20, 2017, Neuvirth is a respectable 6-3 on the current season in 10 games played. His numbers are a 3.30 GAA, and a .887 save percentage. Not very good numbers, but he has found a way to get the job done.
With the Flyers only looking to resign and protect either Neuvirth or Mason, injuries might prevent Hextall from choosing Neuvirth. Hextall’s decision is not an easy one to make, as both goaltenders can be very inconsistent at times. Its clear only one will stay next year, as Stolarz appears to be NHL ready.
So I pose this question to my fellow readers, who would you like to see the Flyers sign and protect with the upcoming expansion draft, Neuvirth or Mason? Follow me on Twitter @JameyBaskow for all Flyers updates.