So... Mason Raymond is a UFA this Summer

Created 4 years 159 days ago
by Michael DeNicola

Tags: Brayden Schenn Free Agents Mason Raymond Toronto Leafs UFA Vancouver Canucks
Views: 1894

by Michael DeNicola

Friday, May 16th, 2014 --

We're so hung up on acquiring a legit #1 defenseman and an uncontested, pure goal-scoring winger that we somehow manage to overlook the meat & potatoes players. I'm talking about 40 - 50-point forwards that loom around the middle six roles. As a Flyers fan, you may be saying we have enough of these 2nd, 3rd line wingers & centers. You have a point; I mean, we did have seven 20-goal scorers on our roster. There weren't many Clubs who could say the same, if any. 

I know we've fallen for guys like Michael Raffl and Jason Akeson, but the NHL experience between those two kids is incredibly limited. Raffl has proven he is defensively sound which has awarded him roles up and down our lineup. Akeson was a late addition, most likely to fill in for an injured Steve Downie and bring an offensive flare to our QuarterFinal Series versus the Blueshirts. 

Raffl's offensive game is coming around, but Akeson lacks an immense defensive charge. Lord bless him, Jason gave it his all, and to us, that's almost all we can ask for. And despite what I have written recently about Akeson, I'm still not sold that he'll be an automatic Flyer beginning the 2014-15 campaign.

There have been recent reports of the Flyers expressing interest in a 23-year old Dennis Rasmussen, a Swedish left-winger who has deposited three good seasons in the Swedish Hockey League. Newly appointed GM Ron Hextall is looking to get younger, faster, as well as adopt an analytical approach to his strategic team-building. There's not a whole lot of the latter available to us to analyze on Rasmussen, but the report on the Swedish skater is enough to let me know that our front office is still aiming to bulk the waistband of our forward combos. 

After all, a pure-goal scorer and elite blueliner are in the highest demand bracket; every Club is after one, the other, or both. They cost lots of money, and despite the production they inevitably bring to the roster, their average annual values constrict flexibility under the salary cap's upper-limit. Sometimes it's just too much of a gamble. And studying the Flyers projected cap situation for 2014-15, depending on the Club's plans, each and every move will be precise and executed under a powerful microscope. 

What am I getting at?

Let's assume for a moment that the Flyers miss out on the Vanek, Moulson, Cammalleri and Jokinen sweepstakes this July 1st. Let's also assume we're not trading for, or acquiring a Pronger-replacement either. If Hextall sticks to his word and doesn't mortgage one or two strong defensive prospects in our pipeline, then we're more than likely looking at the same 2013-14 roster going into 2014-15. 

And finally, let's assume our RFA's are locked up in the books, and kids like Brayden Schenn are very much a part of the gameplan rolling into next season.

If Hextall believes in his team's core, there's no reason to assume otherwise.

So, what'd be a contingency plan tethered to this road map?

Enter Mason Raymond, 28, a 6'0" 190lbs left-wing who has built his NHL career on elite speed, puck-handling ability, and presence on the power play. 

I'm sure you've heard the name, but being that he has spent his first six seasons in Vancouver, you may not be all that familiar with the kid. Mason is coming off the 2013-14 campaign with the Toronto Maple Leafs; through 82-games, Raymond deposited 19-goals (6 of which on the man-advantage, and 4 game-winners) and tallied 26-assists for a total of 45-points. 

The Leafs had him on payroll for 1-year, $1M.... an insanely modest cost for a skater who can breakout in any situation, in any frame of the game. 

Given Toronto's woes, I can't confirm whether they're interested in re-signing Mason or not. But they have a lot on their plates, and chances are good that Raymond hits the open market. With Downie walking out to pasture, I'm guessing it'd take a similar contract to nail down Mason Raymond -- 2- or 3-years at $2.65mm a season. Maybe less? I dunno. I'm usually awful at guessing what players sign for nowadays with all the contract inflation and blatant overpayment. 

Let's get down to brass tacks. 

Mason isn't a first-line winger. At age 28, Raymond has penetrated his prime and absorbs duties from a team's mid-combinations. If this Club is indeed searching for a 50-point 3rd liner, Mason ought to be the primary candidate. Especially considering we're on a budget.

If Corsi & Fenwick statistics are your thing, Raymond isn't the flashiest of flashes. And even though Hextall disclosed that he'll be subscribing to hockey analytics, there's no telling which of those verticals he will be lassoing. There's a wide variety of them; why? Because statistics, in general, feed interpretation. 

Besides, something tells me a first-year GM isn't putting all his eggs in the "shot-attempt differential" basket. So tools like Corsi, Corsi-for/against, Rel %, yadda yadda yadda.... won't make-or-break any of my assumptions by any means. 

Mason would strengthen weaknesses of ours like speed, skating into open spaces, providing deadly aid on our breakout passes, weaponizing our PP2 Unit, and increasing the volume of our 5v5 scoring chances. His speed would deliver production on tactics like the Give-and-Go, and even the forecheck on dump-ins -- a strategy that has become a nightmare on this team for three or four seasons.... but especially last season

Finally, Mason's speed -- mixed with experience -- will help our third-line (Re: Couturier, Read) on the backcheck. Once a turnover is created, getting north on our opponent would be a sexy combination of finesse, puck-handling, speed and slot presence. 

If this team doesn't get its Bobby Orr or Wayne Gretzky this summer, don't play a game of Russian Roulette just yet. We've got a general manager who is seemingly pro-patience, and has bought into our core players. Tiny additions like Mason Raymond often prove to be the brilliant sleeper move that helps a squad get over the hump.

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