By Allan Muir
UPDATE: Multiple reports suggest the stalemate has been broken and the two sides are closing in on a deal that could be announced before the start of the draft. Possibility of a sign-and-trade still in play. Stay tuned.
This probably shouldn't come as a surprise, but the Columbus Blue Jackets and Sergei Bobrovsky have very different opinions about his value to the team moving forward. And it appears that difference may lead to a parting of the ways. TSN's Darren Dreger says the Jackets have put Bobrovsky on the market and are looking for his replacement.
Bobrovsky, who becomes a restricted free agent on July 5, is coming off a Vezina Trophy-season that was as unexpected as any award win in recent memory. It's fair to say that he was the single most important factor in a thrilling season that saw Columbus contend for a playoff spot right until the last weekend. Turns out he's pretty proud of those accomplishments. $6 million proud.
The Blue Jackets, understandably, don't share that inflated view. No argument Bobrovsky is coming off a remarkable campaign, but he was lousy the season prior and only fair the year before that. Hardly the sort of track record that would justify such a lavish commitment.
Many will applaud the hard line taken by the Jackets here, but this puts them in a tough spot. Bobrovsky quickly became the face of the franchise and a reason for the team's beleaguered fans to believe in a brighter future. A good chunk of the credibility regained last season will be tossed out the window.
It won't be easy to replace him in net, and it'll be even tougher to get value for him in a trade. Not just because of his contract demands or a glut on the goalie market, but because there is expected to be a very sizable offer waiting for him from SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL on July 5. Whether that's a realistic option or not--and the odds say the KHL is being used as a bargaining chip--it's hard to imagine any team making any sort of offer to the Jackets without assurances that Bobrovsky can be signed...and probably for less than he's asking now. A draft-floor swap seems unlikely, but don't expect Columbus to let this situation fester long, either.