The notion that Sergei Bobrovsky and the Columbus Blue Jackets are headed toward inevitable divorce has certainly not been dissuaded this week.
Elliotte Friedman had a Friday morning radio hit on Toronto’s Sportsnet 590, during which he was asked how he viewed Bobrovsky’s future with this team.
“I don’t think there is a future. I think the future is he’ll play somewhere else next year,” predicted Friedman. “I think what happened was… one thing I reported in the past is last summer Jarmo Kekalainen, the GM, asked to meet with both Panarin and Bobrovsky in Spain. Everybody lives overseas, and I think they were supposed to meet in Spain. Panarin showed up and Bobrovsky didn’t.
“Bobrovsky apparently has never gotten over some things that were said after the playoff loss last year, and he didn’t show up for the meeting. So everything started off on a bad foot this year. And it has continued.
“Panarin, whether he stays or not, he just is a pro and goes about his business. Bobrovsky has been unhappy all year.
“He’s also got a no-trade clause. He protects everything. I believe there was a point this year where he gave them a small list of teams he would consider going to, but either that still isn’t there or it went away; but now I think there’s even questioning would agree to go anywhere. And it’s a tough trade to make right now anyway.
“So I even think before this Columbus was thinking, ‘We’re going to put all of our eggs in the Panarin basket, and Bobrovsky we’ll just ride it out and see where it goes.’
“The one thing I think Columbus may still have working in their favor, assuming he comes back to play, is he can’t be helping his value on the market. He’s got to play well. Like if I’m representing Bobrovsky, I am saying to him, ‘You have to show up and play because how many teams are going to be looking at you right now and saying, ‘I don’t know. I don’t know if I can trust this guy going forward.’’
“So I think that’s the one ace in the hole that Columbus might have, is somebody has got to say to this guy, ‘You have to show up and play, or else you’re killing your own value.’”
As the conversation on 590 continued, the point was made to Friedman that Blue Jackets fans might be angrier if the team didn’t collect assets via trade “for these two prized possessions, than if you took a run at the Penguins in the first round again and go out in five games. It’s not working there. I can’t be having that.”
Friedman, as he has for the past year basically, took the opposite side of that argument.
“No, I have to disagree with you on this one,” noted the Insider. “I supported Columbus’s strategy. I believed it was the right thing. I think there are times in your franchise’s existence where you have to say, ‘Screw it, I’m all-in,’ and this was a time for Columbus.
“Because first of all, last year at July 1, what were you getting for Panarin knowing that he had told everybody he wasn’t signing anywhere. And there was no guarantee you could even trade Bobrovsky. I’ve heard - I can’t say 100 percent if it’s true, but I believe it - I’ve heard that there were teams that asked last summer about Bobrovsky, and he basically said, ‘I’m not going anywhere.’
“So I think Columbus was stuck. They had a goalie who wouldn’t go anywhere, and the whole league knew Panarin wanted to test free agency. What are you getting for those guys.
“I think you reach a point where you say to your fan base, ‘You’ve been loyal. You’ve been good to us. We’re going for it this year. We’ll deal with all the chips falling after it happens.’
“But you know the other thing is they’re still a good team. And secondly, after Washington won last year, if I was Columbus I’d be saying, ‘Why can’t we be this year’s Capitals.’
“I understand why they did it, and I support it.”
Bobrovsky is wrapping up a four-year, $29.7 million contract and has that no-move clause, as mentioned. The cap hit on that pact is $7.425 million.
Panarin is in the second half of a two-year, $12 million contract.
Contract-related info via CapFriendly