This Worked: Revisiting the Blue Jackets Trade for Sergei Bobrovsky

By Dan Dukart on July 27, 2017 at 7:34 am
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Columbus Blue Jackets' 2011-12 season didn't go very well.

In fact, it went miserably, and they stumbled to the worst record in the NHL with a grand total of 65 points. Naturally, the ridiculous Central Division (those were the days, huh?) finished the season with four teams hitting 100-plus points...and then there were the last place Blue Jackets. 

The offense wasn't anything to write home about, but the club's 3.13 goals allowed per game (28th out of 30) needed a fix, and the goaltending tandem of Steve Mason and Curtis Sanford struggled mightily throughout the year. 

Needing to do something, anything, to make the roster more formidable, the Blue Jackets swung a pre-draft trade to acquire Sergei Bobrovsky, a promising young Philadelphia Flyers netminder who had posted a 42-23-10 record with a 2.73 goals-against average and .909 save percentage over two years to start his career with the Flyers. In exchange, the Flyers received second and fourth-round picks in that weekend's NHL Draft as well as a fourth-round choice in 2013.

The thinking was simple: Bobrovsky could contend for a starting job with the Blue Jackets, perhaps even immediately. With the Flyers signing free agent Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year contract, it was clear which goaltender they were investing in, so Bobrovsky sprung loose.

The rest, as they say, is history. Not only did Bobrovsky assume the starting role in Columbus which led to Jarmo Kekalainen trading Steve Mason later that season (to Philadelphia), he won the Vezina Trophy as the league's top goaltender and has since followed it up with his second Vezina this past season. He remains the only current goaltender to have won the trophy multiple times. 

A few other details need unpacked before we can tie a knot around this deal. For starters, what became of those three draft picks?

The haul: goaltender Anthony Stolarz, left wing Taylor Leier, and what eventually became right wing Justin Auger.

Leier has played in 16 NHL games, posting a goal and an assist, while playing primarily at the AHL level. Stolarz, once a top prospect, has played in just seven NHL games. With the Flyers signing of Brian Elliott this offseason and Michal Neuvirth in the spring, it's likely that Stolarz will play in the AHL again this upcoming season. Finally, the pick that became Auger was traded again before the 2013 NHL Draft, with the Los Angeles Kings sending Simon Gagne to his former Flyers team in exchange for the pick. Auger has not yet played a game in the NHL. Gagne had 15 points in 50 games with Philadelphia over his final two seasons in the league.

Lastly, the elephant in the room is Mason. After winning the Calder Trophy as the NHL's rookie of the year with Columbus, the expectations were high. He was never able to rekindle that success and the end of his tenure in Columbus was rocky. Mason played well in long stretches for the Flyers, but he recently signed a two-year contract to be the likely No. 1 goaltender in Winnipeg.

Overall, this is one of the more clear-cut trade wins in recent NHL memory. Bobrovsky has taken the Blue Jackets to the playoffs twice, has won two Vezinas, and is probably the best Blue Jacket of all time. Trading away three prospects certainly wasn't an easy decision, but given how more than five years later none of them have had much (if any) impact in the NHL certainly is a cherry on top for the Blue Jackets.

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