Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said Tuesday he's working toward getting contract extensions taken care of prior to July 5 with a pair of impending restricted free agents, goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and forward Artem Anisimov.
"I'm very optimistic about Sergei Bobrovsky wanting to play for the Columbus Blue Jackets," the GM said. "He won the Vezina Trophy last year, had success in the NHL and was a big part of our success. I'm hoping that he wants to continue on that path and grow with our team."
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Bobrovsky, 24, won the Vezina Trophy as the League's top goalie after recording a 2.00 goals-against average, .932 save percentage and four shutouts in 38 games. Bobrovsky was acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers in the summer of 2012 to split time with Steve Mason, but Bobrovsky took control of the starting job and Mason was traded to the Flyers in April.
Potentially complicating the negotiations is reported interest in Bobrovsky from Russian clubs.
"I don't know anything about the real process with the KHL," Kekalainen said of the Kontinental Hockey League. "I've been in the situation before where I was working in Finland where it was always if you heard KHL, it was like, 'OK, thanks for coming, and see you later,' because it was just a different ballgame with their salary structure. I think the NHL is a lot closer to it, but some of the things you hear from them, it's like, we can't compete with that."
"We're pretty close with Anisimov," Kekalainen said during a press conference. "I'm, again, optimistic there that we’ll get a deal done here sooner rather than later."
The Blue Jackets also need to determine if they're going to re-sign veteran forward Vinny Prospal and veteran defenseman Adrian Aucoin, each of whom will become an unrestricted free agent if not signed by July 5. But for now, Kekalainen is focused on his restricted pair.
"We've done all our qualifying offers. All of those are going out and we just want to respect the process so that we communicate with the players before we announce anything. That's going on right now and we'll let you know as soon as we can," Kekalainen said. "Like I said, I'm optimistic that Artem Anisimov will get done here shortly. And we're working on [Bobrovsky]."