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Numbers Game: Blue Jackets bring in Bobrovsky

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Scott Cullen
6/22/2012 2:17:30 PM
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Last season, the Columbus Blue Jackets were one of four teams to post a team save percentage under .900, so they moved to address their goaltending, making a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers.

Numbers Game examines the acquisition of Sergei Bobrovsky.

The Blue Jackets Get: G Sergei Bobrovsky.

The New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning were the only teams with a worse save percentage than the Columbus Blue Jackets' .899 last season and Columbus' most effective goaltender last season, Curtis Sanford (.911 SV% in 36 GP), has signed on with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the KHL for next season.

While the Blue Jackets have many holes, goaltending is one that had to be addressed to give them a chance to be competitive next season.

Bobrovsky, 24, struggled in the second half of the 2011-2012 season, posting an .860 save percentage in 10 games after the All-Star break, allowing at least four goals in five of his last eight appearances, then allowing five goals on 18 shots in his only playoff action.

Given that finish to the season, it's no surprise that the Flyers were prepared to part ways, but it's not as if Bobrovsky doesn't still hold some promise. In 83 games, he has a .909 save percentage and while that's not at the level of an average starting goaltender, Bobrovsky is one of nine goaltenders to play at least 70 games over the last two seasons while recording a save percentage of .910 or lower.

The others on that list include veterans Martin Brodeur, Dwayne Roloson and Nikolai Khabibulin, who are near the end of their careers and not terribly similar to Bobrovsky. Veteran backup Mathieu Garon falls into this category too.

On the other hand, Corey Crawford, Ondrej Pavelec and Michal Neuvirth are relatively inexperienced goaltenders that have performed at a similar level over the past two seasons. (The one other goaltender in this illustrious group of nine is Bobrovsky's new teammate, Steve Mason, who has an .898 save percentage over the last two seasons.)

While there is some level of disappointment in all of those cases, including Bobrovsky, it also indicates that Bobrovsky shouldn't be written off because of a poor finish to last season.

After all, he had a .919 save percentage in 19 games prior to the All-Star break, following up a 54-game rookie season in which he posted a .915 save percentage, so for his first 73 games, there was quite a bit to like about the young goaltender's performance.

As it stands now, the Blue Jackets appear prepared to go into next season with the tandem of Bobrovsky and Mason, which sounds like a complete roll of the dice, but that's not the worst idea for a team that is trying to fill a number of holes and should look decidedly different whenever a Rick Nash trade has been completed.

Bobrovsky and Mason can compete for playing time and if either one shows any kind of consistency, then they will deserve more minutes in the cage.

Bobrovsky comes at a cap hit of $1.75-million, but (according to www.capgeeek.com) that's a $900,000 base salary combined with $850,000 in bonuses on his entry-level deal. If Bobrovsky plays well enough to earn those incentives, he'll still be a bargain. He will be a restricted free agent next summer.

The Flyers Get: A second-round pick and fourth-round pick this year and a fourth-round pick next year.

Getting the 45th overall pick presents the Flyers with about a 30% chance of netting an NHL regular, while a pair of fourth-round picks, spread over this year and next year's drafts, present almost a one-in-three chance of yielding a pro. Combined, the three draft picks offer approximately a 60% chance of producing an NHL player in return.

What the deal means for Philadelphia is that they will need to find a backup capable of supporting starter Ilya Bryzgalov.

Former Flyer Martin Biron might be a great fit among the thinning crop of unrestricted free agent goaltenders. Scott Clemmensen, Chris Mason and Jonas Gustavsson are other free agent options to consider.

So long as Bryzgalov's game comes around, it won't matter much to the Flyers if Bobrovsky emerges as a capable starting goaltender somewhere else, but that is the risk that comes with any trade of an inexperienced player who goes to a new team willing to provide more playing time.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

Sergei Bobrovsky and Thomas Vanek (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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