What To Do With Mason?

Three years ago, a popular discussion in NHL circles was a debate about rookie goaltenders: if you started a franchise, would you rather have Steve Mason of the Blue Jackets or Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators as your building block?

It’s no longer much of a debate.

While Rinne’s steady play and the steady play around him has turned Nashville into a perennial playoff club, Mason has bottomed out with some of the worst statistics in the league, and the Blue Jackets haven’t come close to making the post-season. As a result, Mason’s future – not only with the Blue Jackets, but as a viable NHL goaltender – have come into question.

“You start to worry about him now becoming the next Andrew Raycroft or the next Jim Carey,” said one NHL goaltending coach, referring to the two unfortunate examples of how award-winning goalies can fall apart and quickly drift away from the NHL.

“You wonder if he just needs to get out of (Columbus), maybe play for a better team in a different situation, that maybe he’d get it back together again. He definitely needs a change of scenery. But even then you wonder if he ever gets back to where he was.”

Mason, who began shutting off reporters toward the end of this season, declined to be interviewed for this story. Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson agreed to talk, but would not let goaltending coach Ian Clark be interviewed. This is a dicey topic inside Nationwide Arena, as the club mulls its next step with Mason.

The Blue Jackets could trade Mason, but it won’t be easy to find a taker for his $3.2 million salary next season. They could put Mason on waivers and hope he gets claimed by another club. Or, if he clears waivers, the Jackets could send him to the minor leagues.