The fight endures for Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.
Once a sure sign of netminding magnitude, the two-time Vezina Trophy winner is playing like garbage right now, to put it kindly. He’s 2-4 across six starts and boasts a .872 save percentage with a 3.87 goals against average. He allowed four goals on 26 shots Tuesday, leading his team to a 4-1 loss against the Arizona Coyotes.
“Bob has not been Bob,” head coach John Tortorella said Wednesday. “It’s a unique position, that goaltender position, but the past two games the opposing goaltender has been better than our goaltender. That doesn’t happen often with Bob, but it has been there this year.”
To make matters worse, “this year” is the final year of his current contract and there is no forward movement with the Blue Jackets. That means Bobrovsky is possibly on the move, but his recent play isn’t exactly driving market value up.
Granted, he’s the only active goalie with two Vezinas and that’s worth a bit in this game. But looking at his recent value suggests any attaining team could have a bit of a project on its hands.
Bobrovsky could return to past glory, of course.
But the Blue Jackets have to set the table first. They’ve got a vigorous stable of goaltenders, starting with Joonas Korpisalo, who’s been playing well this season and can take the mantle of starter without raising an eyebrow.
And Bobrovsky has a sort of no-move clause in his contract, which means he’ll have one of those lists of teams he’ll permit a trade to and so forth.
He’s been making $7.425 million a year and the word is that he wants more than that, plus term. The current deal is one of those four-year numbers and the next deal, at least as far as what he wants, could be well near double that. That puts Bobrovsky in his late-30s around the time he’s grossing double-digit millions, which isn’t exactly judicious in today’s anticipation-driven NHL.
On the other hand, teams do have to build and Bobrovsky is a good-to-great goalie. He’ll return to form somewhere, someday. And that’s a good chance for both goalie and team to start afresh.
That puts some interesting teams in the “perhaps” column, like the Calgary Flames. They’re contending with a drifting Mike Smith, who’s also in the final year of his contract and is north of 30. The Flames could light one up on Bobrovsky and give him term and cash, getting the final piece of their puzzle in place and working toward playoff magnificence once more. The trouble? Cap space, man.
The Florida Panthers could be in the conversation. They’ve got a goalie about to hang it up sometime soon in Roberto Luongo, as injury troubles linger. And the backup situation isn’t that great, either, which puts Bobrovsky front and centre. What’s more, fellow blasé Blue Jacket Artemi Panarin is ostensibly interested in playing in Florida.
Other trade destinations are always likely, like Carolina or Philly or the dreaded Long Island, but the point remains the same: the Blue Jackets will have to package something up quick and move the netminder before the season starts divulging his apathy as a real weakness. And then he’ll wander off into the sunset for nothing.