Jakob Lilja Heading to KHL After Agreeing to Terms on One-Year Contract with Barys Nur-Sultan

By Dan Dukart on June 30, 2020 at 8:05 am
Jakob Lilja of the Columbus Blue Jackets controls the puck in front of the New York Rangers net.
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Per multiple reports, Jakob Lilja will be heading to the KHL to continue his playing career for the 2020-21 season. The news was first reported by his new club, Barys Nur-Sultan

Lilja, who came to Columbus as a free agent from Djurgårdens of the SHL last offseason, had 2-3-5 in 37 games this season with the Blue Jackets. He split time between Columbus and AHL Cleveland, where he posted 5-8-13 in 22 games.

The 26-year old, who had been a teammate of Emil Bemstrom in Sweden, gave the Blue Jackets organizational depth. Nonetheless, Lilja likely saw the writing on the wall that his future opportunities in Columbus may be limited.

In many ways, his upcoming departure is reminiscent of Lukas Sedlak, who left for the KHL last summer after posting six points in 47 games with the Blue Jackets in 2018-19. Sedlak flourished in an elevated role in the KHL this season with Chelyabinsk Traktor, as his 23 goals and 40 points both led the team.   

The Blue Jackets have plenty of organizational depth, as evidenced by injuries this season. Some (but not all) of Liam Foudy, Riley Nash, Eric Robinson, Kevin Stenlund, Nathan Gerbe, Stefan Matteau, Devin Shore, Mikhail Grigorenko, Ryan MacInnis, and Kole Sherwood will be competing for similar ice next season, which made Lilja's role less pronounced. 

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