No Vezina repeat, but Bobrovsky remains Jackets’ MVP

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The Columbus Blue Jackets are in the middle of important talks with restricted free agent Ryan Johansen, but an even bigger contract negotiation is looming.

Sergei Bobrovsky entered the 2013-14 campaign as the reigning Vezina Trophy winner and while he didn’t repeat, he nevertheless solidified his status as a great goaltender. Bobrovsky got off to a slow start with a 2.81 GAA and .906 save percentage through November, but he posted a 2.12 GAA and .933 save percentage for the remainder of the season to lead Columbus to the playoffs.

The campaign overall was still a step back from his showing in the lockout shortened 2013 season, but after years of unreliable work from netminder Steve Mason, the Blue Jackets can finally count their goaltending as a strength and that has been at the center of their recent rise. Given that Bobrovsky is only 25 years old (26 on Sept. 20), he is in a position to be the long-term solution in Columbus.

Whether or not that happens will depend on more than just his performance in 2014-15 though. After he won the Vezina Trophy, Columbus signed him to a two-year, $11.25 million bridge contract. That means he’s set to be a restricted free agent again in the summer of 2015 and this time around both sides will likely be very interested in agreeing to a long-term deal.

It will clearly need to be a lucrative contract and the numbers will only increase if Bobrovsky continues to excel. That’s a problem the Blue Jackets would be happy to have as without Bobrovsky playing at or near the top of his game, this team’s outlook is a lot grimmer.