Here’s the latest on collegiate standout and former Columbus property Mike Reilly, who’s set to test free agent waters after balking on signing with the Blue Jackets:
Reilly, 21, is a pretty hot commodity. He was a Hobey Baker candidate and two-time All-American that, this season, became the first d-man in nearly 20 years to lead the Golden Gophers in scoring. Last month, he announced he was leaving the University of Minnesota and upped his professional stock by representing Team USA at the Worlds, where he appeared in all 10 games and helped the Americans capture bronze.
Taken by Columbus in the fourth round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Reilly is following in the footsteps of former Boston College product Kevin Hayes. Hayes, taken in the first round by Chicago in 2010, passed on joining the Blackhawks to become an unrestricted free agent, and quickly signed with the Rangers.
Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen tried to sign Reilly repeatedly throughout the last year and, upon trading d-man James Wisniewski at the deadline, said the move opened up a spot for Reilly at the NHL level. But the wooing didn’t work — it always felt as though Reilly was going to go UFA, regardless of the situation in Columbus.
It’ll be interesting to see which teams Reilly speaks with at the combine. His dad, also named Mike, is a minority owner of the Minnesota Wild, which has led to speculation the younger Reilly could opt to sign with his hometown team.
Update: Interesting bit here, from the Star-Tribune’s Mike Russo…
From everybody I have talked to, I believe that as of right now the Blackhawks are the frontrunners.
As I wrote last week, there are entry-level parameters, so it’s not like any team can sweeten offers. This will come down to which team sells their program best to Reilly and where he sees the best fit and clearest path to the NHL.
The Blackhawks could be selling to the left-shot, mobile Reilly that he’s the eventual Nick Leddy replacement.