Tuesday, June 25, 2013

So what's taking that Bobrovsky contract so long?

The Blackhawks have won the Stanley Cup.  Sergei Bobrovsky has won the Vezina trophy.  I love hockey, but I haven't had the energy to write about the Jackets recently.  Rule number one around this place is "Have fun"  blogging.  Seeing the Blue Jackets in the review mirror of the playoff bus again this April hurts even more because of how close, and how far, the Blue Jackets were to the playoffs this season - it's no fun missing the playoffs.  And for those of you quick to blame a disallowed goal for the missed opportunity at the playoffs, remember that Jared Boll was seeing Power Play time in January and February.  #StinkyCheese.  Now that it's almost July, it's fun to start speculating what might happen to the Columbus Blue Jackets with the upcoming draft and free agency period right around the corner.  But what has caught my immediate attention is the lingering issue of Sergei Bobrovsky's contract status.

It's an intriguing story to say the least.  Reports from Russia indicate that if Moscow turns over Eric Snowden, the state department will allow Bobrovsky to sign in the KHL.  Kidding aside, the KHL aspect of this story is interesting for a couple reasons.  First, I can't remember a time when the KHL actually had the opportunity to poach an NHL player in their prime.  Please don't throw Jiri Hudler at me.  He was not a standout NHL player and he's still playing in the KHL for the Kalgary Flames.  However unlikely it is that Bob bolts for Russia, the KHL is sort of making some waves in it's public pursuing of Bobrovsky.  I don't think the KHL is a serious threat to pluck Bob from North America, unless Bobrovsky's inner Robert E. Lee makes him do something stupid out of loyalty to his place of birth.  Second, the folks who whine about the travel in the West look like a bunch of cake eaters when you compare the travel to the KHL to the 3 and 4 hour LA to NYC flights.  12 hour flights on 40 year old Soviet-Era aircraft, lest we forget the lesson already learned from that.

No, I don't take the KHL's offer too seriously (Bob's patriotism notwithstanding).  Bob's agent, the ex-special forces soldier Paul Theofanous, is wise to consider all options, even ones bandied about by Russian State Media from SKA in Leningrad.  Paul has had his 'Cloak and Dagger' moments (literally and figuratively) getting players out of Russia and into the US and has represented many Russian/Soviet-born players the past 20 years.  Paul is no dummy and doesn't instill an over inflated sense of worth to his clients the over the years.  He's known to give them advice as professional athletes as well as making sure his players receive what they are worth.

What it lacks in safety regulations, it makes up for in leg room
But one thought has crept into my mind that my make the KHL signing a little more plausible:  how cheap-ass are Jarmo and JD going to be with their initial offer to Bob?  JD and Jarmo have been very frugal, and rightly so, with locking up Atkinson, Calvert, and Letestu to common sense, if not bargain, contracts. But perhaps JD and Jarmo need Bob more than Bob needs them.  However silly the thought of playing in Russia sounds, does a $4.5MM a year low-ball offer from a dispassionate Jarmo really make Bob consider 12 hour flights on aircraft built when Gordie Howe was still playing for the Red Wings?  As ratings-killer Jonathan "T-bone" Smith pointed out on the "Common Man show" today, John Davidson's credibility with the fanbase takes a HUGE hit if the Jackets don't show serious effort to sign Bobrovsky should he leave.  I tend to agree with that.

Jarmo has said the CBJ will match any (presumably NHL) offer that is presented - Which if I understand the RFA process - means Bobrovsky will have already willingly signed an offer sheet to play with another team in order for the CBJ to match.  So those people who say Bob is not about the money are dead wrong.  The lack of "Bob wants to be a Blue Jacket and we're going to make sure that happens" rhetoric from either side of this negotiation means Bob is not bewitched by the public schools and lavish country clubs as other players are - he wants paid and he wants to win.  I begrudge no man the ability to responsibly and ethically take what another person is willing to pay them.

Does that make Bob a money-grubbing Rooskie?  No more than it makes JD a stingy old coot not willing to pay the man unless some other team comes along and offers more.  This whole "Economic Rent" experiment that JD is trying out will do nothing but leave everyone exhausted, especially bloggers.  There are only two logical reasons I can think of why the talks have stalled:

1. JD and Jarmo have low balled Bob and have told his agent "Well let's see what other team's offer this summer"


2.  Paul Theofanous has said "Don't call unless you're willing to talk $8 million a year,"

It's sad to say that I think JD and Jarmo are more likely to lowball Bob than Theofanous is to hold out for a ludacris payday after 10 weeks of all world hockey.  If the Bob's talent is worth $7 million a year, and you can budget the $7 million, the CBJ should pay the man $7 million a year and offer it upfront.  In my opinion, the team's first offer to Bob should be it's best (and not a dime over $6 million a year).  That's the consideration you give to a player that is the shining beacon of hope in a city that's only known hockey misery.  You don't necessarily over pay, you just go out of your way to try and lock him up early.  I don't believe you negotiate with Bobrovsky the same way they did with Letestu.  John Davidson's propaganda commercials can only last so long if after two years the best we have is still Mark Letestu and Curtis McElhenney.  This negotiation with Bob should be resolved by now, in my opinion anyways.  Unless of course I'm so out of touch and there are Bobrovsky's falling out of the sky. Give the kid $24MM for 4 years and be done with it.

I'm not surprised by the Cold War era-like contract negotiations.  I mean between Bond Villain looking Kekalainen and cold war commando Paul Theofanous, it's no wonder this contract negotiation has more of a "Anti-Proliferation Enforcement" feel to it than the signing of perhaps the most popular player ever to pull on the CBJ sweater.  Cold War-era romanticism aside, I am not encouraged by JD's cautious approach to signing the one player most likely to put butts in the seats and give his teammates confidence.  Granted, Bob played great hockey for 10 weeks so I can't really blame a "realistic" approach to signing Bobrovsky.  This is a business and I expect everyone involved to act like professionals.  But, the Blue Jackets should be doing everything they can to put themselves in a position where they ARE going have to worry about big dollar paydays after a cup win.  And whether it's Bobrovsky or not, I don't ever remember a team being able to make a run at the Cup with an "ok" goalie - and John Davidson knows that - he carried a team once. 

I could be all wrong too.  They could have this money thing all worked out and their just bickering over contract length...


  1. Probably the sticking point is term. CBJ probably are offering something like 1 year 6M per, 2 year 5M, or 4 year 4M, while Theofanous is holding out for something like 4 years 6M per. I would imaging the Jackets are willing to strain the bank in the short term, but not in the long-term with RJ and Wiz's contracts. Something along the lines of Tuuka Rask's one year deal, which he used to emphatically prove himself, though richer. Add in that they want cap space to make moves, and I think everything makes sense. I just hope Bob is involved. The agent doesn't care about the level of the team, just the cash his client makes. Bob, just like Calvert, Atkinson, and Letestu, will sacrifice to make the team better (or at least I believe from everything I've seen about Bob).

  2. Wait, Bob's not supposed to give Columbus a "hometown discount"? It's all business?

    Why, you'd think that they're playing professional sports in Columbus now...


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