This is what $2.9M can buy you in Columbus:
It is also what has signaled to the Union Blue faithful that they will be cheering a new goaltender next season. The Blue Jackets franchise goalie Sergei Bobrovsky has put is downtown condo up for sale. He could just be looking to buy a house in the 'burbs, but I'm guessing not.
He and fellow countryman Artemi Panarin are both likely to leave Columbus this off season and could sign elsewhere on July 1 when the free agent market opens. They could even be headed to the same destination in order to give-it-a-go-together at another Stanley Cup run, since this season's was cut short by BOS.
Make no mistake, Bob was and is a franchise goalie. Here are his numbers from 7 seasons in Columbus (playoff number is parenthesis):
Games Played: 374 (27)
Record: 213-130-27 (11-16)
Sv%: .921 (.908)
GAA: 2.41 (3.03)
Shutouts: 33 (0)
Vezina: 2 (2013 and 2017)
All Star: 4
He spend 7 years here in Columbus and saw playoff action 4 of those years. He won 2 Vezina Trophies and represented Columbus in the All Star game 4 times.
His playoff numbers over the years left a lot to be desired but this season he broke those trends. He was 6-4 with a .925 Sv% and 2.41 GAA. He was only bested by Rask, who's playoff run has been other-worldly (10-5, .937 Sv%, 2.02 GAA).
Here are just a few of his great saves from this playoff season - he is #8, #6, #4 and #2 on this top ten list:
He has been nothing but classy interacting with the media and fans. Here is his exit interview. He seemed grateful for his time here in Columbus and was very complimentary of his teammates.
The Argument For Keeping Him
1. Did you see that playoff performance? That is what you want from a franchise goalie. It is what fans in Columbus have been waiting for. It is something that this team could build from...if he stayed.
2. Who can Columbus get that is better? No one. Rask is not available and I am sure Dallas will not trade Bishop. One could make an argument that Quick could be available for the right price, but was he better than(or equal to) Bob this season? There just are not franchise goalies out there to be had. When you find one you hold on to them, even if you pay them a little too much and give them a longer term than you should.
3. He is a fan favorite and proven he can win here, even on bad teams.
4. If the CBJ were going to let him go they should have gotten value from him at the deadline. CGY, TOR and SJS (at least based on 1st round) must have been interested or making offers.
The Argument For Letting Him Walk
1. Cost and term. Bob can demand top dollar and for an 8 year term. Is Bobrovsky worth the cap hit? Probably. Will he be worth the cap hit in 8 years? Probably not. He is 30 years old now. And while goalies usually age well, what is his game going to look like at age 38? In comparison, Luongo in his late 30s has played 40, 35 and 43 games per season. He has 17, 18 and 18 wins (2016 - 2018). If the CBJ is going to pay Bob $9M per season that is a cost of $500,000 per win at the end of his contract.
2. Could get a pick(s) for trading his negotiation rights at or before the draft. This is not going to be a high round pick but could be conditional based on his willingness to sign. Maybe as high as a 3rd rounder.
3. Is there a replacement 'in-the-system'? There were flashes of brilliance from Korpisalo in short instances. He doesn't seem to be the 2-time-Vezina-franchise-goaltender that Bob is. Elvis Merzlikins has no NHL experience, but has a good track record overseas and in international play. As he signed a one-year deal on his entry level contract and the CBJ was willing to burn it for the end of this season and post season, he is an RFA. This goaltender tandem will not be a huge cap hit, which is favorable to signing other RFAs and UFAs. With a strong group of blueliners can these two support the number of wins to get CBJ into the playoffs? Can a team backstopped by these two goalies make any sort of playoff run?
Bob will always hold a place in the hearts of CBJ fans. But this could have been the pinnacle of his ability. He could not win a Cup with a better team, he certainly may. A change of scenery could result in a short-term boost his play (see Marc-Andre Fleury). And if he ends up on another roster next season, there could be instant regret that last 3-5 season. These are all likely possibilities. But there are considerations of the downward trajectory of his career also.
Is There Room For Bob
Depending on who the CBJ can sign (or re-sign) there would be cap considerations to contemplate. For the 2019-2020 season CBJ have a cap payroll of $49M(+) to start. Three RFAs are due pay increases: Korpisalo, Murray and Werenski. Other RFAs that may or may not be signed are Clendening, Harrington, Robinson and Sedlak. Here is math for the RFAs that are likely to be re-signed in Columbus:
Korpisalo $2.5M per year
Murray $3.75M per year
Werenski $6M per year
Sub total of Cap: $61.75M
Add in players likely to make the team or other RFAs to be re-signed:
Other D (2 of Peeke, Clendening, Harrington, Carlsson) $3.5M
Other F (2 of Robinson, Sedlak, Foudy, Milano, Sherwood, Fix-Wolansky) $3.5M
Sub total of Cap: $72.55M
Sub total of Cap: $82.55M
Projected NHL Cap: $85M
That math is very rough. It also assumes that Panarin would leave Columbus and Dzingel and Duchene would stay. If CBJ is trying to re-sign Bob there would be another $2M in goalie salary available as they would not carry 3 goalies. This Cap calculation may be a player or 2 heavy based upon what that actual roster can be so there may be another $1M - $2M wiggle room.
The point of this exercise is to show that the Jackets cannot afford to keep this roster together under current Cap rules. Especially if they back up a Brinks truck to try to keep Bob. There is not $8M - $10M per year to pay him without losing other significant pieces. Short of a salary dump, like getting rid of Wennberg and/or Dubinsky, I don't see the Cap space for Bob. And I'm not sure there is a market for either of those players.
While my math may be slightly off and the CBJ may have immediate regret for letting Bob walk, there is an upside to moving on from him. The core of this team is solid. This is a team on the rise with or without Bob.
Put on your GM hat. How do you handle the Bobrovsky situation?
Do you make him an offer at all?
Who is your trade-off player that would not get re-signed?