It really wasn’t that long ago that Sergei Bobrovsky was dumped by the Philadelphia Flyers to the Columbus Blue Jackets for a collection of draft picks. Geez, they grow up so fast, don’t they? As we all know, the Flyers ended up buying out Ilya Bryzgalov while Bobrovsky went on to win the Vezina trophy. Columbus sent a message loud and clear that they won’t make the same mistake that the Flyers made, as they opened up their wallets for the new face of their franchise.
Bobrovsky and the Jackets reached a deal on Friday that will pay him $29.7 million over four years, giving him a $7.425 annual cap hit. The deal will make him the second richest goalie in the league behind only King Henrik in New York, who gets paid $8.5 million a year. C’mon Flyers fans, you can’t be that upset, just pretend you got Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier in the trade and it looks a lot better.
What I get from this deal is a combination of “we’re investing in you,” and “we still want you to work to get better.” They haven’t offered him financial security for the next decade, but they’re paying him the money that they believe he’ll be worth once he’s a finished product. It may seem like a lot, but the short term makes it pretty safe for the team.
He’s got a lot to prove, but Bobrovsky, now 26 years old, has a pretty impressive resume through his first three seasons with the Blue Jackets.
In his first year, back in the lockout shortened 2013 season, he nearly singlehandedly carried the Rick Nash-less Blue Jackets, a team whose leading scorer was Vaclav Prospal (30 points in 48 games) to the playoffs. They ended the season with a 24-17-7 record, tied with the Minnesota Wild for 8th place in the West, but missed out because Minnesota had more wins. As previously mentioned, this was Bobrovsky’s team. He put up a .932 save percentage and a 2.00 goals against average on a very mediocre team, and he was rewarded, becoming the first Russian to win the Vezina Trophy.
People were skeptical of Bobrovsky. I mean, it was only a shortened season, right? A bunch of the guys weren’t ready to play, nobody was into it, and he probably would have imploded on himself had the season gone another 40 games. Nope. Bobrovsky answered his critics and put up another amazing performance in 2013-14. His .923 save percentage on Columbus’ 29.4 shots against per 60 minutes per game was enough to push the Jackets into the playoffs for just the second time in franchise history.
With his new contract, Bobrovsky is going to be the second highest goalie behind Henrik Lundqvist. He’s making more than Pekka Rinne and Tuukka Rask who both make $7 million and Carey Price who makes $6.5 million.
Obviously Bobrovsky isn’t the second best goalie in the league (right now), but that’s not what the Jackets are paying for. Columbus signed Bobrovsky for four years, three of which are UFA years because they locking down a player who they believe is still improving. If all goes according to plan, Bobrovsky will continue to improve throughout his deal, then the team can negotiate a new, longer extension as he’s a more proven commodity. If not, and Bobrovsky’s deal becomes an albatross, they only have him tied up for four years, so it won’t haunt them as much as his old team was haunted by his mentor.
The old saying goes something like, if you love something, let it go. I’ve never really understood that. If you’ve got something and you love it, you should want to tie it down so it can’t get away. Regardless, since trading for him, the fortunes of the franchise have completely turned around. For the first time in franchise history, they have a legit first line centre and a goalie who has been good for more than one year (See Marc Danis, Pascal Leclaire, etc). The Jackets love these guys and they’re going to show them by locking them down and making sure they don’t go anywhere.