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Why the Columbus Blue Jackets Paid a Little Too Much for Sergei Bobrovsky

Dave Lozo@@davelozoNHL National Lead WriterJanuary 10, 2015

COLUMBUS, OH - DECEMBER 18:  Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky #72 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates with the puck against the Washington Capitals on December 18, 2014 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Washington defeated Columbus 5-4 in overtime. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

One can only imagine Ryan Johansen lying in his hotel bed, slowly awakening from a pregame nap in Toronto, grabbing his phone off the end table and seeing the news of Sergei Bobrovsky's four-year, $29.7 million contract extension and having one immediate thought...

..."I thought we were a team on a budget."

It was only a few months ago when the Columbus Blue Jackets played hardball with Johansen, their budding star coming off an entry-level deal. The negotiations became public and contentious as one side wanted a bridge deal (aka bad deal) and the other side wanted a long-term deal (aka too much money for an RFA). The two sides eventually pulled a Benjamin Button by meeting in the middle with a three-year, $12 million agreement.

Since then, the Blue Jackets have backed dump trucks full of money onto the lawns of Bobrovsky and Nick Foligno, the latter receiving a six-year, $33 million contract two weeks ago while in the middle of a career season.

The Blue Jackets are a team on a small-market budget—their payrolls have ranked 19th, 14th, 24th, 13th and 23rd the past five seasons, via the CapGeek archives—so it makes sense they account for every penny.

That's what makes bestowing Bobrovsky with four years at a $7.425 million cap hit somewhat strange.

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#CBJ Jarmo Kekalainen asked if he believes Bobrovsky is a top 5 G in the #NHL: "Yeah. Otherwise we wouldn’t have given him this contract....

The bar for goaltenders was set by the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist last season when he signed a seven-year, $59.5 million contract extension that carries an $8.5 million cap hit. And let me tell you—that's a heck of a bar. That's a bar with a free jukebox, never-ending happy hour and it lacks one of those games with speed bags bros love to hit as hard as they can. It's a great bar.

And now, starting next season, only Lundqvist has a larger cap hit than Bobrovsky, according to The Columbus Dispatch's Aaron Portzline. It doesn't seem right that Bobrovsky has the second-best bar in the league (it probably has the speed bag game).

There really isn't a straight line from Johansen to Bobrovsky to Lundqvist, as it swerves and moves all over the place, but there is a line there.

Johansen was a fresh RFA when he had his contract squabble with the Blue Jackets while Bobrovsky is an RFA much closer to UFA status, so he has much more leverage and a better ability to extract dollars from the organization. There's a similar premium on each's position, though, as No. 1 centers and No. 1 goaltenders are held in high regard around the league.

Contracts are signed at different times with different organizations with different salary-cap situations, but consider now that Bobrovsky has a higher cap hit next season than goaltenders Pekka Rinne, Tuukka Rask, Carey Price and Jonathan Quick, among others. A player is always worth exactly what the market bears, but did the Blue Jackets maybe overpay a little bit here?

Bobrovsky's resume is hardly unimpressive but it's quite limited. He won the Vezina Trophy in 2013 after a 48-game season, one that shouldn't be taken as seriously as trophies won in 82-game seasons. But even if you consider his .932 save percentage in 2013 an anomaly, he had an impressive .923 a season ago, and his .917 save percentage this season is one on the rise as the Blue Jackets get healthy.

The playoffs can make or break a player, but Bobrovsky has limited work and almost no success there—the 26-year-old is 2-6 with a 3.50/.890 split in the postseason with the Blue Jackets and Flyers.

There's nothing wrong with having Bobrovsky as your goaltender for the next four years, but couldn't the Jackets have played a little more hardball with him? Has he really proved he's worth about $1 million less than Lundqvist about $500,000 more than Rinne and Rask and about $1 million than Price?

Could the Blue Jackets have saved about $500,000 per year on the Bobrovsky deal? If you think that dollar value isn't all that much, consider the St. Louis Blues decided to stick with the inferior Steve Ott this past offseason while the superior Vladimir Sobotka and the team were $300,000 apart in negotiations, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, resulting in Sobotka leaving for the KHL.

Every dollar counts for small-market teams and while this is far from an egregious overpayment, it's an unnecessary one.

All statistics via NHL.com. Salary-cap info via Spotrac unless otherwise noted.

Dave Lozo covers the NHL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter: @DaveLozo.

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