COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Exhale, Blue Jackets fans. The top cop on the force is officially back on the case.
Sergei Bobrovsky and the Blue Jackets signed a two-year contract extension today, a few days before he was slated to become a restricted free agent (RFA). The agreement ends a somewhat-lengthy negotiating process that endured some fits and starts, but both sides were able to achieve their goal: get Bobrovsky under contract as the club's No. 1 goaltender.
Bobrovsky was the NHL's Vezina Trophy winner in 2012-13, posting a record of 21-11-6 in his first season with the Blue Jackets. He was acquired for three draft picks from the Philadelphia Flyers at the 2012 NHL Draft in Pittsburgh, and had one year remaining on an entry-level deal that carried a salary cap hit of $1.75 million.
Terms of Bobrovsky's new contract were not immediately disclosed.
Not only did Bobrovsky capture goaltending's highest honor in the NHL, he went a long way toward establishing himself as a No. 1 goalie and giving the Blue Jackets a stable presence between the pipes.
He was a rock for the club down the stretch, keeping the Blue Jackets in games and also stealing a few along the way, as they went 19-5-5 and missed the Stanley Cup playoffs by a mere tiebreaker to the Minnesota Wild.
"I’m extremely excited about having him signed," Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen told BlueJackets.com. "Now we know he’s back, and we have a great goaltender who won the Vezina Trophy last year and was the back bone of our team.
"He’s a person we relied on night after night to play at a high level, so we’re nothing but thrilled to have him back and that’s great for our team."
Kekalainen stated multiple times over the past few weeks that resolving Bobrovsky's contract situation was the highest priority and one they would work hard at, and after a handful of meetings and phone conversations with Paul Theofanus (Bobrovsky's agent, who is based in the New York/New Jersey area), they were able to break through and reach an agreement.
As with any significant contract negotiations, there were ebbs and flows, but "unique circumstances" made this particular situation different than usual.
There were rumors of offers from the SKA club in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League (where Bobrovsky starred during the NHL lockout) and the potential of offer sheets from other NHL clubs if Bobrovsky reached July 5 without a contract, and Kekalainen acknowledged the difficulty of navigating around such obstacles.
But at the end of the day, it's all about reaching the end station, Kekalainen said.
"I would just call it a unique situation with everything that was going on around him," Kekalainen said. "Obviously there’s the KHL, and the team he played on (was a factor). It’s real, but it’s what you have to deal with. There was interest from so many different places and not just the NHL, and we didn’t want to lose him. He had arbitration rights – that’s another thing we had to weigh in."
With a two-year contract term, Bobrovsky will remain a restricted free agent and under team control at age 26 once the deal expires.
"He’s a 24-year-old goalie and goalies mature a little later than other players, so there’s a lot of room for improvement," Kekalainen said. "With his work ethic and how hard he prepares, there’s no doubt in my mind that he will get better. He’s a great goalie and he’s coming into his prime in the next few years and I’m confident he will be even better in the future."