In the coming weeks, we’ll know a lot more about the future of Sergei Bobrovsky. We’ll know if he’s the 2012-13 Vezina Trophy winner. We’ll know if he’s on the cover of EA Sports’ NHL 14.
Most importantly we’ll know if Bobrovsky, a 24-year-old pending restricted free agent, is still a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Kontinental Hockey League’s SKA St. Petersburg is expected to make a play for Bobrovsky, who had a 2.00 GAA and .932 save percentage while leading the Jackets back into playoff contention. He would also be open to an offer sheet from another NHL team, after the Blue Jackets give him a qualifying offer to retain his rights.
According to Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen, who is engaged in contract talks with Bobrovksy’s agent, if there’s an offer sheet given to Bobrovsky then the Blue Jackets will match it.
But to paraphrase Dr. Ian Malcolm from “Jurassic Park”: Are the Blue Jackets so preoccupied with whether or not they could sign Bobrovsky, they didn't stop to think if they should?
That’s the kicker for this Michael Arace column in the Columbus Dispatch, which asks an uncomfortable question of Blue Jackets fans: What if this is one-and-done for Bobrovsky?
What if he never recaptures this form again? Suddenly, the team is saddled with a monster contract for a goalie that had one award-winning season.
It’s not like Columbus hasn’t seen goalies go from the Next Big Thing to an ornament on the bench within a few seasons.
Bobrovsky put up terrific numbers this season. He also displayed attributes — technical soundness, work ethic, athletic ability, competitiveness, grit, stage presence — that set him apart from Steve Mason and about 26 other goaltenders you might name. However, he is young by goaltending standards, his record in two years in Philadelphia was checkered, and he is about to make enough money to strain a salary cap.
Think about it. Columbus has seen Bobrovsky play well for exactly two months. Is this his definitive book? Kekalainen’s track record is even more abbreviated. It consists of one major trade, for Marian Gaborik — and the winners and losers in that deal will not be known until Gaborik re-ups and scores goals or ships out in salvage.
If Bobrovsky plays in the NHL next season, it’ll be with the Blue Jackets. This new regime has been pushing the right PR buttons throughout its tenure – hence, they won’t let him slip away.
But the term and total of this contract is an early test for Kekalainen.