When Ryan Johansen was involved in his infamous contract imbroglio during training camp, both Columbus Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen and team president John Davidson were unwavering in their stance. They both stressed they were willing to pay big-money and long-term contracts to players who had earned them.
And that’s exactly what they’ve done. Hours before taking the ice Friday against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Blue Jackets announced they had signed goalie Sergei Bobrovsky to a four-year contract extension worth $29.7 million. That came weeks after the Blue Jackets locked up winger Nick Foligno to a six-year deal worth $33 million.
Discuss amongst yourselves whether Bobrovsky is worth a cap hit of $7.425 million for the next four seasons, which at this point will be second only to Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers. It’s an interesting debate whether the 2012-13 Vezina Trophy winner should be paid more than Pekka Rinne, Carey Price, Tuukka Rask or Jonathan Quick.
But in that conversation, you have to consider that the Blue Jackets were likely willing to give Bobrovsky huge coin or huge term, but not both. Bobrovsky took the money, meaning that in the summer of 2019 when Bobrovsky is approaching his 31st birthday, he’ll be looking for a new deal. Quick, meanwhile, is in the midst of a 10-year deal, Rask is playing on an eight-year contract, Rinne on a seven-year pact and Price on a six-year deal.
If you believe Bobrovsky is a top-five goaltender in the NHL, the deal looks like a good one for both sides. And if you believe the Blue Jackets are trending in the right direction after enduring a hellish first half of the season with injuries, having Bobrovsky around with this core of players is a positive step. The long-term signings of Brandon Dubinsky and Foligno, along with Bobrovsky, have made it clear what kind of a team Columbus wants to become. And that’s not the kind of team that once built around Rick Nash as its centerpiece.
“It’s great to be a Blue Jacket for four more years,” Bobrovsky said after allowing four goals on 31 shots in a 5-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs Friday night. “To be with the guys in this organization, it’s really fun to be here and I’m really happy about this deal.”
There had been talk that Bobrovsky did not want to talk contract with the Blue Jackets during the season and preferred to wait until the off-season when he would become a restricted free agent with just one more season to go before unrestricted free agency. Bobrovsky said it was decided in the interest of both sides to get a deal done now and move forward.
Bobrovsky is well-liked by his teammates and has performed well in his time in Columbus and there’s a sense that even if they can’t dig themselves out of the injury-plagued 6-15-2 start to salvage a playoff spot this season, good things are on the horizon for the franchise.
Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said he found it difficult to be too overjoyed over the extension, given his team had just been soundly outplayed, but said Bobrovsky, to his credit, never allowed the distraction of an expiring contract affect his play.
“I was never worried about Sergei,” Richards said. “I was never worried about it being a distraction or affecting his play. He comes to the rink prepared. I never worry about him and I don’t think this thing that was lingering was affecting his play.”
Richards said he contemplated pulling Bobrovsky after he gave up four goals in the first period, but not because of the way he was playing. One wise guy tweeted after the first that Bobrovsky proved once again the age-old adage that any long-term contract extension signed in Toronto turns out to be disastrous.
Not bad. But there’s a pretty good chance that this one will turn out just fine.