Though there have been plenty of rumors floating around since his impressive performance at the IIHF World Championship, Elvis Merzlikins won’t be coming over to North America just yet. The Lavtian goaltender tweeted out his intention to play at least one more season for HC Lugano in the Swiss NLA, meaning he won’t be competing for a job with the Columbus Blue Jackets for at least another year.
Merzlikins, 24, has been the Latvian international goalie of note for several years, and outdid himself at this year’s Worlds by posting a .940 save percentage in six games. That included taking both the USA and Canada to overtime and pushing the eventual champions Sweden to the brink of elimination in their quarter-final matchup. Though he was selected four years ago, his draft rights will not expire next week like many other European players. That’s because of the lack of transfer agreement between the NLA and NHL, meaning the Blue Jackets will have more chances to convince him to come to North America in the future.
His contract with Lugano is expected to expire after this season, which gives the Blue Jackets a very interesting option for the 2019-20 season. Both Sergei Bobrovsky (UFA) and Joonas Korpisalo (RFA) are set to become free agents next summer, meaning Columbus will have some tough decisions on how to proceed with their goaltending going forward. If Merzlikins posts another big year in the NLA, and another solid performance in the Worlds, perhaps he’d be considered as a direct-to-NHL option for them. The 6’3″ goaltender has certainly held his own whenever facing off against some of the NHL’s best.