TORONTO -- Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky is the latest player to make a long-term commitment to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Bobrovsky on Friday signed a four-year contract extension worth $29.7 million. It will pay him $7.425 million per season starting in 2015-16 and makes him the second-highest paid NHL goalie behind Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers.
Goalie - CBJ
GAA: 2.75 | SVP: .917
"We believe he's only going to improve," Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said here after the deal was announced. "It's ultimately up to the player to prove that he's worth the contract that he gets. That's the way we operate, we operate on giving them the futures, and that's [why] we evaluate these players every day, but we believe with his hard work and dedication he's going to be one of the top goalies in this league for a long time."
On New Year's Eve, forward Nick Foligno signed a six-year contract extension, following earlier deals with forwards Ryan Johansen (three years) and Brandon Dubinsky (six years).
Bobrovsky, 26, is now signed through 2018-19.
"That was something both sides were comfortable with," Kekalainen said. "Four years seemed like a good number. It gives us three years of unrestricted free agency. It gives him a chance to see where the salary cap is going, I guess. I can't speak for what their logic is, but four years is a good number for us. It keeps the player hungry and it gives us also a good amount of unrestricted-free-agent years."
Bobrovsky is in his third season with the Blue Jackets, and since being acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers on June 22, 2012 he's been the No. 1 goalie in Columbus and won the Vezina Trophy in 2013. Following that season, he signed a two-year contract worth $11.25 million. Talks this time went more peaceably.
"I don't know if it's different, but sometimes the situations are a little bit different," Kekalainen said. "People are in different stages of their lives and it just happened that year. It was a shortened year of the NHL and he just kept getting better and better and better and better, and his numbers kept getting better, and then he won the Vezina, and so it took a little longer time than usual, but that's part of the process."
Bobrovsky is 68-41-13 with a 2.34 goals-against average, .924 save percentage and 10 shutouts in 123 games for Columbus. He was 15-10-2 with a 2.75 GAA, .917 save percentage and one shutout in 27 games this season before playing against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday.
"This is a very exciting day for me and I am very happy knowing that I will continue to be a Columbus Blue Jacket and be able to play with the guys in this room, to work to get better every day and help the team achieve our goals together," Bobrovsky said in a statement announcing the contract.
Columbus entered play 18-17-3, nine points out of the second Eastern Conference wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Blue Jackets last season reached the postseason for the second time, losing in the first round to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"Obviously you want to make sure your core stays in place, and I keep saying this all the time, but I also try to make sure our core keeps getting better and improve, and these are the type of players that we believe that will do that," Kekalainen said. "They're hard-working, they take care of their career, and they take it very seriously.
"[Bobrovsky] is a great example of a guy that really puts in the work every day, how he prepares for practice, how he prepares for every game. He's a good example in the locker room and off the ice and on the ice the way he is as a professional. That's the type of leader we want on our team and that's why we've locked up all these core players."
Lundqvist signed a seven-year, $59.5 million extension with the Rangers on Dec. 5, 2013.