Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Mason wants back in

Veteran goalie says he'd be comfortable in supporting role

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PITTSBURGH -- He was openly uncertain about his motivation to return to Winnipeg when the NHL regular season ended.

But backup goalie Chris Mason, who could be an unrestricted free agent next Sunday, said Friday his thoughts are now clear about what he wants for his future.

"We're talking right now," Mason said. "I want to come back and be part of this commitment to rebuild."

The 36-year-old was little used in the second half of the Jets' season, starting just five times after Game 50.

In all, he played in 20 games, going 8-7-1 with a goals against average of 2.59 and a save percentage of .898, as the Jets rode No. 1 man Ondrej Pavelec to try to squeeze into the playoffs. Mason said his camp's talks with Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff will continue and he even stuck his neck out to say they had a positive tone.

"We're currently working on it and I think the feeling is mutual," Mason said. "The discussions we've had so far have been very positive."

When the season was over, the Red Deer, Alta., native said he was torn about whether he should seek more playing time elsewhere or whether he could continue in the clearly supporting role he had in Winnipeg.

"I still have those feelings but I do know that one thing is important to me now," he said Friday. "In my career I've been part of three different rebuilds and when teams have been ready to really go, I've moved on to different situations.

"I would like to see one these rebuilds through instead of moving on when the young guys come of age. It's one of the things we're dealing with in our discussions."

Assets for Mason at this point will include his fitness and his work ethic. Many players and Jets' staff members frequently refer to him as the team's hardest-working member.

"I know I'm 36 and maybe my days are a bit numbered, but I'm still feeling pretty good and confident about my ability to contribute," he said.

In 2009-10, his last season as an NHL starter, Mason played 61 games for St. Louis, with a 2.53 GAA and a .913 save percentage.

One of the challenges Mason had this past season was that he was played way more on the road -- 14 out of his 20 games.

At home, he was 4-1-1 with a goals against average of 1.68 and a save percentage of .931.

Asked if the conclusion to this contract story was close at hand and if it could be complete before he becomes a free agent, Mason said: "I don't know where it'll be on July 1 but I do have the sense that the (interest) is both ways."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 23, 2012 C4

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