The timing could not have been worse for Cody Goloubef.
He knew the situation in training camp: the Blue Jackets were in evaluation mode, trying to get down to numbers with an abundance of defensemen trying to make the opening night roster. At the time, he felt like he was playing some of his best hockey and parlayed that into starting the season with the big club.
It was a big step for Goloubef, too, as he’d bounced back and forth between the NHL and AHL the previous couple of seasons and was looking to solidify a full-time job. He was a healthy scratch for the Blue Jackets’ first five games of 2014-15, but got in the lineup for the first time Oct. 23 in San Jose – but only five games into his season, he suffered a knee injury on Nov. 1 that derailed it.
“(The timing) was the most frustrating part,” Goloubef told BlueJackets.com. “I felt like I was moving my way up the depth chart, and then I got hurt and knew immediately I was going right back to square one. I had to scratch and claw and fight my way back, but I think it’s a good learning experience and I proved to myself that I could do it.”
He did just that upon returning on Jan. 4 in Colorado. Goloubef continued to progress, and despite another logjam on defense later in the season, he pushed his way into the mix and was an NHL regular down the stretch.
In his exit meetings with the Blue Jackets last month, coaches and management expressed to Goloubef – a pending Group VI unrestricted free agent (UFA) – their desire to keep him in the fold, and the feeling was mutual.
So it's safe to say it didn't take much time to reach a resolution and hammer out a two-year extension that Goloubef signed this week.
“I knew I was going to be an unrestricted free agent, and during the exit meeting, it was made pretty clear that I wanted to stay here and they wanted me to stay here as well,” Goloubef said. “That’s where we started and it didn’t take that long to get it done. It was just a matter of getting things fair on both sides, and once it got that point, we wrapped it up and all was said and done. For me, it’s great to have it done early and focus on the season ahead and have a big summer.
“It’s good to have their support and have them commit two more years to me. I’ve worked for everything I’ve got here, and that’s not going to change. I’ve worked hard the last few years and worked hard to show improvement, but there’s still work to be done and I plan on doing it.”
A second-round pick (37th overall) of the Blue Jackets in 2008, Goloubef has endured a steady climb up the organizational depth chart. He played three years at the University of Wisconsin, and in his sophomore season, was part of the gold-medal winning Canadian team at the World Junior tournament.
Goloubef’s steady climb mirrors his steady, sound game – and that’s one of the things that the Blue Jackets like about him. They also feel he has more to offer, and at age 25, he’s only starting to come into his prime years.
“They told me that they’ve seen a lot of growth in my game, which is good to hear,” Goloubef said. “But the positive thing is they see a lot more potential and growth, and I was thinking the same thing. To hear them say that was a big confidence boost.
“I don’t know that I ever got back to where I was (before the injury) late in the season, but I’ve been really excited to get in the gym this summer and get back to that point. What I showed in camp and early in the year is a good starting point, but I want to be better than that and keep going – there was a lot of experience gained this year but I’m looking to move forward.”