While there’s no doubt about who will be the starter for the Columbus Blue Jackets this season – Elvis Merzlikins appeared in 59 games last year – it’s not exactly clear who will be the primary backup. The team brought back Joonas Korpisalo on a one-year, $1.3MM contract but also signed Daniil Tarasov to a three-year deal with an average annual value of $1.05MM.
The thing is, both Korpisalo and Tarasov are coming off hip surgeries.
Korpisalo, 28, has still not been cleared for game action and there is no timetable yet according to Aaron Portzline of The Athletic. The goaltender hopes to play in the preseason, but it is more likely that we see Tarasov first. Portzline notes that Tarasov’s surgery was about a month ahead of Korpisalo’s, meaning he’s ahead in the recovery process.
There is also simply the fact that Korpisalo hasn’t been very good recently. In 22 appearances last season he posted an .877 save percentage and whopping goals against average of 4.15. The 23-year-old Tarasov meanwhile posted a .937 in four NHL appearances, though his professional experience in North America is limited to just 21 games to this point.
Given the fact that Columbus is focused on competing this season, after signing Johnny Gaudreau in the offseason, should Korpisalo start slowly it will be difficult for the team to stick with him. Tarasov is waiver-exempt and can be sent to the minor leagues, but will get his chance at some point to prove he’s ready for the NHL.