In an interesting twist, the Columbus Blue Jackets might be losing their top defense prospect Mike Reilly. Reilly is currently a junior with the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the NCAA but since he played one season of junior hockey in the CHL, he could become an official NHL free agent soon.
The rule is if a player is unsigned by the team who holds their rights (in this case, Columbus) after 30 days after the player is no longer in school, they become a free agent.
If Reilly leaves Minnesota after this season Columbus has 30 days OR until June 1st (whichever comes later) to sign the prospect. In the past, prospects Justin Schultz and Blake Wheeler used this same “loophole” to become NHL free agents.
Reilly is easily a top ten prospect in college hockey and there is no doubt teams would attempt to sign him if he does become a free agent. If Columbus does sign him, he could play right away this season after NCAA season ends. We’ve seen this before with the Boston Bruins and Torey Krug along with the Calgary Flames and Johnny Gaudreau.
Goaltender Zane McIntyre has a similar situation with the Bruins who drafted him. The North Dakota goaltender is arguably the best college hockey goalie and if he remains unsigned, he would be picked up right away. The Bruins very well could sign him, however, given the struggles of backup goalie Niklas Svedberg.
Back to Reilly, he was the 98th overall pick to Columbus in 2011. “I haven’t looked too much into the overall situation, just kind of focusing on our season,” Reilly told the Columbus Dispatch. “It’s been brought up a little bit, but I’m trying not to think about it too much.”
Reilly leads all college defenseman with 38 points in 34 games played. A two time all American, Reilly would be a very coveted prospect for any team who needs a “puck moving” defenseman to add to their system.
Columbus has some decent defensive depth, but since they won’t be a playoff team, if they do sign him it would make a lot of sense to play him at the NHl level right away to take a look at what they have.
“Mike has things you can’t teach,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said in that same Dispatch article. “Elite hands, vision … He thinks the game so well. His feet are really good. He’s one of those kids who is a late bloomer physically, and there’s still room for him to get stronger.”