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Kekalainen: Anisimov deal is "close"

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- While much of the "restricted free agent focus" surrounds goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, the Blue Jackets' focus has reached other areas.

Also scheduled for RFA status on July 5, center Artem Anisimov is in need of a new contract.

No deal is official or signed off on yet, Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said Tuesday morning, but the club is hopeful to have a new contract done in the not-too-distant future for their young center. Acquired from the New York Rangers on July 23 in a deal that sent former Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash to the Big Apple, Anisimov was an ideal fit right away with Columbus.

Though he battled injuries - including a scary incident at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit in February - Anisimov managed to be a valuable player when he was healthy and in Todd Richards' lineup. The 25-year-old center showed an ability to play in all three zones and in multiple situations in an expanded role in 2012-13, and proved capable of handling more ice time in the process.

He made an impact right away, scoring a goal on opening night in Nashville and also an impressive goal in the shootout as the Blue Jackets earned a 3-2 victory.

In 35 games played, Anisimov totaled 11 goals - third-most on the club despite missing time due to injury - and 18 points, putting him on a 40-point pace over the course of a full season.

Anisimov's current contract, a two-year deal signed in 2011, carries an annual salary cap hit of $1.875 million.

"We're pretty close with Anisimov, and again, we're optimistic that we'll get a deal done sooner rather than later," Kekalainen said. "We've done all of our qualifying offers and all that - those are going out, but we want to respect the process so we communicate with the players. I'm optimistic (Anisimov) will get done here shortly and we're working on (Sergei Bobrovsky)."

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