A promising young goalie is under contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets for the next three years. The team announced a three-year extension for Daniil Tarasov today worth $3.15MM, paying him $1.05MM per season. The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline reports that the deal pays Tarasov $750,000 in 2022-23, $1.05MM in 2023-24, and $1.35MM in 2024-25.
Just 23 years old, Tarasov had a .937 save percentage and 2.40 goals-against average in his first four NHL games last season before suffering a season-ending hip injury. In 11 games with the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters, Tarasov also had a 5-3-4 record, 3.06 goals-against average, and .893 save percentage. The Blue Jackets took Tarasov in the third round, 86th overall, in the 2017 draft.
A multi-year, seven-figure commitment seems like a lot for a netminder who’s played less than five NHL games and is looking for his first NHL win. However, Tarasov’s put together an impressive professional career over the past few seasons despite the lack of NHL experience. He emerged as a full-time starter for Ässät in the Liiga at just 21 years old in 2019-20, playing in 41 games with a .899 save percentage and 11-17-9 record for the Finnish team. Columbus loaned him back to his native Russia in 2020-21, where Tarasov exploded for a .925 save percentage and 11-3-2 record for Salavat Yulaev Ufa in the KHL.
Tarasov is still waivers-exempt, meaning the team can safely send him back to AHL Cleveland if they desire. Yet, the worth of the deal and its one-way nature could indicate that the team views him as an NHL option next season as the backup to Elvis Merzlikins, or at least working as a team of three with Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo. Korpisalo only has one season remaining on his deal with a $1.3MM cap hit, so it’s entirely likely the team could opt to trade him this offseason and open the door for Tarasov full-time.
Again, that’s still a risky move considering Tarasov’s inexperience at the NHL level, but he remains one of the better goalie prospects in the league.