Who needs Sergei Bobrovsky anyway? The Columbus Blue Jackets did just fine with their unproven goaltending tandem this season, with Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins both performing at All-Star levels when they were called upon. That success requires payment however and both goaltenders were scheduled for restricted free agency this summer. You can check at least one name off the to-do list, as Korpisalo has signed a two-year extension with the Blue Jackets today. Aaron Portzline of The Athletic reports that the deal will carry an average annual value of $2.8MM and keeps Korpisalo under contract through the 2021-22 season. Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen explained just why he decided to offer the contract:
Joonas had the opportunity to play a lot of games for us early in the season before he was injured and responded by playing at an All-Star level. He is a young, talented goaltender with a great work ethic and desire to succeed and we are very excited to see his continued development and improvement moving forward.
Korpisalo, 26, was given 37 starts for the Blue Jackets this season and recorded a .911 save percentage in those games—nearly equalling Bobrovsky’s numbers from a year ago. That performance earned him a selection to the All-Star game, though an injury kept him from attending. Injuries will be the question moving forward and likely will play a role in deciding which of the team’s netminders gets the majority of the games.
Having Korpisalo sign at such a low number will allow the team to keep both, assuming that the negotiation with the arbitration-eligible Merzlikins goes smoothly. Even with a stagnant salary cap the Blue Jackets should have more than enough room to operate with this tandem in place, and the fact that Merzlikins is not eligible for the Seattle expansion draft means the team could have their goaltending positions solved for some time.
It is important to remember however that even though Korpisalo may be new to the net, he will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this contract. The number may be low but the team bought out only one UFA year.