Jets deal goalie Steve Mason to Canadiens in salary dump ahead of free agency

The Winnipeg Jets cleared salary cap space and the Montreal Canadiens added some assets in a trade Saturday ahead of the opening of NHL free agency.

MONTREAL — The Winnipeg Jets cleared salary cap space and the Montreal Canadiens added some assets in a trade Saturday ahead of the opening of NHL free agency.

The Jets sent veteran goalie Steve Mason and his US$4.1-million price tag for 2018-19, forward Joel Armia and a pair of draft picks to Montreal for defence prospect Simon Bourque.

Mason, 30, inked a two-year contract with Winnipeg on July 1, 2017, but was quickly overtaken by Connor Hellebuyck as the starter this season.

The Jets have a number of players to re-sign, and could also use some of the money saved in Saturday's deal to bring back pending unrestricted free-agent centre Paul Stastny.

The free-agent market opens Sunday at noon ET. 

With goalies Carey Price, Antti Niemi and Charlie Lindgren all one one-way NHL contracts, the Canadiens reportedly placed Mason on waivers just hours after the trade for the purpose of buying him out.

Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin had at least $14 million in cap space heading into the weekend and has hinted he might be open to taking on salary in exchange for assets. As well as Mason and Armia, he picked up a seventh-round draft pick in 2019 and a fourth-rounder in 2020.

Mason went 5-6-1 with a 3.24 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage in 13 games for the Jets in 2017-18. The Oakville, Ont., native is 205-183-64 in 476 career NHL games with Columbus, Philadelphia and Winnipeg.

A six-foot-three right-winger, Armia was drafted 16th overall in 2011 by Buffalo, but played only one game for the Sabres prior to being included in the blockbuster deal that saw Winnipeg ship Evander Kane out of town.

The 25-year-old Finn had career-highs in goals (12), assists (17) and points (29) in 79 games last season before adding a pair of goals in 13 playoff outings. He has 26 goals and 58 points in 180 career NHL games.

Bourque, 21, turned pro last season and had three assists in 46 games for the Laval Rocket of the American Hockey League.

The six-foot-one, 195-pound native of Longueuil, Que., was drafted in the sixth round in 2015. He inked a three-year entry-level contract in 2017 that pays $720,000 in the NHL and $67,500 in the minors.

Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press