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Mike Reilly on free agency rumors: "I'm not putting any time into it"

The Minnesota junior defenseman and 2011 Columbus Blue Jackets draft pick responds to being the subject of NHL free agency rumors this week.

Matt Christians

On Tuesday, Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch wrote about the Blue Jackets' pursuit of University of Minnesota junior defenseman Mike Reilly, a 2011 4th round draft pick. Reilly, who could opt for free agency if he turns pro after the Gophers' season ends because he played a year of junior hockey first, is being pressed by the Blue Jackets to sign with Columbus.

All of the top brass in the Blue Jackets organization attended last weekend's Minnesota-Ohio State series. His name has been brought up several times by them and the virtues of Columbus, including the fact there is an open path to the NHL. They were complimentary about his growth and development and have Reilly at the top of their prospect lists.

The piece set off plenty of speculation (including our own) that if he does go pro that Reilly could end up being this year's Kevin Hayes.

For Reilly's part, he could care less about being the subject of the internet's speculation. There is still something else on his plate.

"I think that's something that popped up a little bit. I'm not putting any time into it to not worry about it at all," he said to SB Nation College Hockey about the speculation. "Obviously people - the media is smart and they can figure things out about where we might be leaning towards or anything - but what I basically told them is 'I respect their opinions and everything. I'm just focusing on right now.'"

The reigning Big Ten defensive player of the year and 2013-14 first team All-American leads all college hockey defensemen in points (38), assists (32) in 34 games. He also leads both categories per game.

Minnesota (19-12-3, 10-5-3-0 Big Ten), one point behind Michigan State in the Big Ten standings, hosts Penn State in the regular season finale Friday and Saturday. The Gophers are 14th in the Pairwise rankings, on the bubble for making the NCAA Tournament,. A good finish this weekend and at the Big Ten conference tournament next weekend is required to get in and try to top Minnesota's Frozen Four runner-up spot of a year ago.

In fact it's Reilly's immediate goal.

"We have to finish strong on our season for sure," he said. "Last week was the biggest weekend of the year going up to that point and this weekend is going to be bigger. I know it's kind of cliche, but it's true. We got to make sure we're dialed in and I definitely think we can get two wins here this week. I'm pretty confident in that, but we have to come out ready to play."

Last weekend's trip to Columbus, in which Minnesota won 4-2 Friday and lost 5-2 Saturday, the weekend was business mixed with a family affair. Mike's older sister Shannon lives and works there after playing 4 years of college hockey with the Buckeyes, Reilly's parents made the trip as well, which made it a fun weekend, he said.

As for the future with Columbus or not? There's too much on the line on the ice to talk about speculation off of it.

"It doesn't bother me or anything, but I don't really like to talk about it too. So obviously at some time (after Minnesota's season) we'll see about that," he said.

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Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation mostly covering both the University of Minnesota and Big Ten. You can also follow him on Twitter --