Sergei Bobrovsky came away as one of our big winners from NHL free agency this summer and there's about 70 million reasons why. But Bobrovsky's new massive seven-year, $70 million contract from the Florida Panthers isn't the only reason why he ditched Columbus for South Florida.
In fact, his eyes were set on leaving Ohio long before dollar signs filled them.
Bobrovsky, 30, spoke to Russian sports magazine Sport24 about a number of topics, including his free agency process, this week and said there was zero chance he was going to sign another contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets, the team he'd spent the last seven seasons with. (Note: Bobrovsky's answers are roughly translated from the Russian publication.)
"To be honest, no" said Bobrovsky when asked if there was a possibility of him staying in Columbus. "I felt that I needed a change. This is not only because of the friction with the club or the team, my heart just said that it was time to open new horizons."
The development doesn't come as too much of a surprise considering it was reported throughout the season that Bobrovsky's camp wasn't willing to negotiate a new deal. But according to Bobrovsky, he knew after last season that he wasn't interested in staying with the Jackets, and he told the club's front office as much.
"I told the management after the 2017-18 season that I wouldn't stay at the club, they didn't react to that," said the goaltender. "On the contrary, they began to talk more about contract extension. Of course, you might think why I created the problem for myself by informing everyone in advance about the solution. But, on the other hand, the person I am, I honestly informed about my plans and did not play any backstage games. It would be harder for me to look in the mirror if I told everyone that I would stay first, and at the end I was leaving."
The Russian goaltender's decision to inform the Blue Jackets of his intentions came after the team blew a 2-0 series lead against the eventual Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals in the first round of the playoffs two seasons ago. Columbus hadn't won a playoff series in their history to that point, only getting over the hump this past spring when Bobrovsky helped them reach the second round, where they lost in six games to the Boston Bruins.
It also became seemingly more evident that Bobrovsky wasn't long for Columbus when he was benched by the team for one game as a result of an incident this past January. The team released a statement saying Bobrovsky had failed to meet "the expectations and values" set by the club after he headed straight to the locker room instead of sitting on the bench after being pulled in a prior game.
That incident led to reports that Bobrovsky's relationship with John Tortorella had been deteriorating throughout the year, and the goaltender addressed those rumors as well.
"Torts has his advantages and disadvantages," said Bobrovksy. "He is what he is... impulsive. He says what he thinks. In his position, he behaves as he considers correct. There were moments when, in the regular season, he praised. There were moments when he criticized. He could do it at a press conference or in the locker room with the team. I did not agree with his opinion and because of this we often had cheerful conversations on high tones."
But oddly enough, despite Bobrovsky informing the club that he intended to move on, and despite him being at odds with the head coach, the Blue Jackets allegedly still "constantly" tried hard to sign him to an extension up until the very end.
In the end, Bobrovsky stuck to his word and hit the free agent market, where he says he initially looked to join the same team as fellow Russian Blue Jackets star Artemi Panarin, also a free agent looking who wasn't very secretive about wanting escape Columbus.
Panarin ultimately ended up with the New York Rangers but Bobrovsky claims the Panthers were his number one choice. He says he received several good offers but chose Florida for a number of reasons.
"A good young team, a competent manager, a strong coach came," he explained. "I think that I have every chance to win the Stanley Cup with this team. Plus living conditions: you play a winter sport in the very south, around palm trees and the ocean."