As the Blue Jackets entered the offseason and looked at potential changes to their roster, one of the outstanding items was the status of Mike Reilly.
Reilly, the team’s fourth-round pick (No. 98 overall) in the 2011 NHL Draft, just completed his junior season at the University of Minnesota, where he was a Hobey Baker award finalist and led the Gophers with 36 assists.
According to the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, Reilly’s rights were held by the Blue Jackets until June 15 – a little more than a month after he declared his intent to forgo a senior season at Minnesota. The Blue Jackets reportedly granted him permission to speak with other NHL teams earlier this month, and he did so at the NHL Combine in Buffalo.
Reilly’s agent, Pat Brisson, called Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen on Wednesday afternoon to let him know Reilly would not be signing with Columbus.
“He exercised his right in the CBA to talk to other teams,” Kekalainen told BlueJackets.com. “He narrowed his list down to two or three teams, and we’re not one of them. We did everything we could, but we have to make other plans now. He was a good prospect for us, but we have to move forward.”
NHL.com reported that Reilly met with as many as nine teams – including the Blue Jackets – at the Combine.
The Blue Jackets thought highly of Reilly, a swift-skating, puck-moving defenseman who they drafted at just barely 160 pounds four years ago. Reilly had worked with the team at development camps over the past few summers, and the Blue Jackets had invested in the player, as well, something that Kekalainen said would not change going forward.
He wants his team to continue to draft and develop quality NHL players, and Reilly’s decision won’t alter their process.
It will only slightly impact the Blue Jackets’ offseason plans, Kekalainen said; they are looking to add to their defense, and while they hoped Reilly would be part of it, they’ll move on to the next options on their list.
“Our focus here is on draft and development; we developed (the player), but he got away because of the way the CBA is written, that’s all,” Kekalainen said.
“This was something that we were waiting for. This effects the decisions we make from this point on (in the offseason), and now we have to make other decisions accordingly.”