When NHL players buy property in a city, particularly free agents, it is often blown out of proportion. Many players have ties to cities throughout the league, but may not necessarily have any intention of signing with the local team. However, when players sell property in the city they played in, that carries some more weight. An impending free agent usually has enough on his plate without house hunting, unless it’s part of a move to a new team. So, when Sergei Bobrovsky put his place on the market today, most Blue Jackets fan saw it as the last piece of evidence pointing to his departure. The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline reports that Bobrovsky’s $3MM condominium in downtown Columbus has been put up for sale, likely ruling out a possible return for the superstar goalie. Bobrovksy has hinted for more than a year now that he was likely to leave Columbus as a free agent, but there were surely some fans holding out hope that the team’s postseason run may have changed his mind. His real estate move today would suggest otherwise. Bobrovsky, who is undoubtedly the best netminder on the free agent market and arguably the best player overall, will be donning a different jersey next season.
- Speaking of ties to a city, Bobrovsky’s Blue Jackets teammate Matt Duchene was again spotted in Nashville this week, writes Paul Skrbina of The Tennessean. However, Skrbina is quick to note that Duchene was joined by several other teammates who were all in town to celebrate Riley Nash’s 30th birthday. This is not the first time that Duchene has been linked to the home of the Predators, though. In fact, the country music fan owns property in the area and many Nashville fans have hoped he would one day call the city home. The Predators were the third team in on the now-infamous trade that sent Duchene to Ottawa last year, but only because they were initially interested in acquiring Duchene himself. While they settled for Kyle Turris instead, that was a decision that didn’t play out so well this season, as Turris missed 27 games due to injury and contributed only 23 points on the year. The Predators find themselves in need of scoring again this off-season, but is Duchene a realistic target? Skrbina notes that GM David Poile recently commented that he feels the team has the flexibility to add up front in free agency, but Duchene is the top center on the free agent market and is likely to command at least than $9MM annually on his next deal. Having just acquired Mikael Granlund and handed Turris a major extension, it seems unlikely that Nashville will be willing to make the commitment in dollars and term that it would take to land Duchene, even if he does enjoy the city.
- One player who knows for sure where he’s playing next season is draft-eligible prospect Cade Webber. Webber, a hulking defenseman out of The Rivers School in Massachusetts, has signed on with the Penticton Vees of the BCHL for next season, the team announced. Webber had previously committed to Boston University as part of the 2020 recruiting class, but there was uncertainty about whether he would return to Rivers or play elsewhere in the upcoming season. With Penticton, Webber will have the opportunity to face tougher competition but also to develop in a program that has turned out plenty of talent in recent years, including another BU defenseman in Dante Fabbro. At 6’6″ and nearly 200 lbs., Webber is about as big as they come at 18 years old. However, he does not let his size define his game; Webber is a strong skater and isn’t afraid to carry the puck and get involved in the offensive end. He recorded 12 goals and 26 points in just 29 games for Rivers this season and also featured for Team USA at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup. Recently ranked No. 87 among draft-eligible North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, Webber is a candidate to be drafted as early as the third-round in June and teams could be tempted to reach for a player with size you can’t teach. After that, the Vees will get a major boost next season from the talented blue liner before he joins the Terriers a year later and likely jumps to the pro level not long after that.