Just that quickly, the Columbus Blue Jackets have their goaltending tandem locked up. After extending Joonas Korpisalo last week it was Elvis Merzlikins’ turn today. The Blue Jackets have announced a two-year extension for Merzlikins. Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen gave an explanation:
We’ve believed for several years that Elvis Merzlikins was the best goaltender outside the NHL while he was playing in Switzerland and this year he has shown that he has the ability and drive to be a very good goaltender in this league. He is quick, athletic and driven to succeed and we are excited to see what the future holds for Elvis and our hockey club.
Aaron Portzline of The Athletic reports that the deal will pay Merzlikins $3MM in 2020-21 and $5MM in 2021-22 ($4MM AAV). He will be an unrestricted free agent at its conclusion.
The Blue Jackets have now locked up their future in net, for at least the next two seasons, at a reasonable $6.8MM total. That’s still considerably less than the amount former Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky landed in free agency and with the way Merzlikins and Korpisalo performed it looks like the team may have dodged a bullet.
It’s hard to explain just how successful the 26-year old Merzlikins was in his first year with the Blue Jackets. After starring in Switzerland for several seasons he came over and almost immediately became one of the best goaltenders in the league, recording a .923 save percentage in 33 appearances, including five shutouts.
Even though Merzlikins is making more than Korpisalo, there’s no guarantee that he gets the majority of starts next season. Kekalainen told reporters that the decision will be up to the coach, meaning John Tortorella has the final say on which netminder backstops his club next year.