The good news is Sergei Bobrovsky had a dream season for the Columbus Blue Jackets, leading the club to the brink of the playoffs and earning a Vezina Trophy nomination. The bad news is that Bobrovsky did all that on the last year of his entry-level contract, meaning he is a restricted free agent as of July 1.
The Blue Jackets are working diligently to re-sign their star netminder, but as general manager Jarmo Kekalainen told Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch, talks have gone nowhere.
“We've talked. We've exchanged ideas,” general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said this week. “But we haven't made any progress, really. It's been pretty quiet for a while now.”
Kakalainen also told the Dispatch that the team will match any offer sheet if any came along from other NHL teams, but is optimistic it won't come to that. However, the Blue Jackets might have a lot more competition than fellow NHL clubs.
It sounds as though Bobrovsky is drawing heavy interest from SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL.
Bobrovsky played with the team during the lockout, posting stellar numbers there as well with a .932 save percentage and 1.94 goals-against average in 24 appearances. According to Chesnokov, there's also a chance Russia's national team coach will be taking over SKA after the Sochi Olympics.
This definitely should concern Columbus as SKA is almost certainly going to throw buckets and buckets of money at Bobrovsky. He may also get some pressure from the Russian hockey federation in regards to his status for the Olympic team.
If Bobrovsky, as believed, would prefer to stay in the NHL, SKA's interest at the very least offers a big heap of leverage in his contract talks with Columbus. The Vezina-caliber season was a good start, but the possibility of losing Bobrovsky to the KHL will be a factor in the dollar amount and term the goaltender commands.
According to Cap Geek, Columbus has 16 players under contract for next season, with $17.5 million left under the salary cap. Columbus also has to try to re-sign restricted free agent Artem Anisimov, who might be due for a raise. There's wiggle room, but not a lot.
It's a potentially contentious situation for the Blue Jackets after gaining a lot of positive momentum by making an honest run for the postseason. With two first-round draft picks this year and a host of young players with another year of experience under their belts, the future seems bright. It's a lot less if something reasonable can't get worked out with Bobrovsky.
It seems unlikely that Bobrovsky would leave the NHL after such a huge season, but these things can get complicated.