The first shoe has dropped, and the Columbus Blue Jackets are involved.
Far from dealing star Rick Nash, however, GM Scott Howson has merely upgraded in goal, adding Russian netminder Sergei Bobrovsky for three draft picks on Friday afternoon in advance of the NHL draft's first round.
Going to the Philadelphia Flyers for Bobrovsky is a second-round pick and two fourth-rounders (one this year and one next).
It’s not a bad return for Flyers GM Paul Holmgren, who had offered the young goalie around the league a few weeks ago as he searched for more of a safety net behind Ilya Bryzgalov.
For Howson, it’s a decent gamble on a 23-year-old on an entry level deal who went 28-13-8 with a .915 save percentage as a rookie a year ago.
The expectation is Bobrovsky will now battle Steve Mason for playing time in the Columbus crease.
“He’s had a great first year in the league,”
Howson said of Bobrovsky. “He’s won over 40 games in the league. I think he has
the potential to be a very good NHL goalie. He's still a young goalie... I think
he has a chance to be a No. 1.
“Now we have two NHL goalies who have a chance to be both No. 1 goalies. We're going to see how it plays out.”
Because Bobrovsky had been on the market for
a while, Howson had time to do some in-depth scouting on the netminder. He and
his staff came away impressed.
“He has good size,” Howson said. “He plays a little low in the net. Has very powerful lateral movement. He's a fitness machine [and a] very hard worker. Very competitive.”
The deal takes the Blue Jackets out of the running for a netminder, leaving really only the Toronto Maple Leafs in the hunt for a No. 1. Several teams, including the Flyers, are looking for a backup, but there are several options available in free agency.