Everyone knows what the Columbus Blue Jackets did this season, and their improbable run that saw the team almost reach the postseason took place due in large part to the efforts of goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. The Blue Jackets will see their roster remain mostly intact for next season, and as they try and keep things moving in a positive direction, they need to fill roster spots with capable players that can help keep things moving forward. Earlier this week, the Blue Jackets signed Curtis McElhinney to a one-year contract. While he played well in the AHL, McElhinney has done little over the course of his career to make anyone think he should be playing for a contending team.
McElhinney won 29 games and had nine shutouts for the Springfield Falcons this season, and while that’s great it’s still the AHL. The Blue Jackets didn’t call on him when Steve Mason struggled, and it’s hard to think this is much of an upgrade over Michael Leighton (who never even got a chance to play for Columbus). McElhinney has not played in the NHL since the 2011-12 season, when he appeared in two games for the Phoenix Coyotes. The season before that, he appeared in seven games for the Ottawa Senators. In 69 career games, he has only 19 wins and goals-against average above 3.00 – not exactly the kind of things that boost confidence.
There’s no doubt Bobrovsky will start the majority of games, but he’s never done that for a full season and might have a few slumps. The Blue Jackets saw Mason’s numbers drop sharply after one good season, and they should be more than a little nervous Bobrovsky could do the same. Now, instead of turning to a more reliable option (and there will be plenty available this summer), the Blue Jackets are putting their faith in a netminder who had one really good year in the minors (but gave up 18 goals in four games in the first round of the playoffs). If this ends up being a deal where McElhinney can be sent down to Springfield again, it’s not the worst call. Otherwise, the team really jumped the gun here and might end up paying for it next season.