Don’t you step on all of your best Elvis jokes at once, because the Columbus Blue Jackets are keeping Elvis Merzlikins around for a while.
Blue Jackets secure goalie tandem for two more seasons with Elvis Merzlikins extension
Not long after signing fellow goalie Joonas Korpisalo to a two-year extension, the Blue Jackets signed Merzlikins for two years as well. Interestingly, the Blue Jackets will reportedly pay Merzlikins more than Korpisalo. While Korpisalo’s AAV will be $2.8 million starting next season, The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline reports that Merzlikins’ cap hit will be $4M. Each deal runs through the 2021-22 season.
Portzline shares the yearly breakdown:
Elvis Merzlikins’ deal with #CBJ will pay him $3 million in 2020-21 and $5 million 2021-22. AAV of $4M.
He’ll be an unrestricted free agent when this deal expires. Would have been a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer.
— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) April 23, 2020
Let’s get one of the gut reactions out of the way first: the Blue Jackets will devote less cap space to Merzlikins and Korpisalo ($6.8M) than the Panthers are paying a struggling, aging Sergei Bobrovsky ($10M).
That inevitable comment aside, the Blue Jackets made an interesting bet this past week.
An interesting tandem
Korpisalo (25) and Merzlikins (26) stand at an interesting intersection between being in their primes, yet fairly unproven for their ages. After all, Elvis is in the middle of his rookie season, with just 33 NHL games played.
Honestly, while his stats at other levels are impressive, it all comes in the Swiss League. If they’re being honest, the Blue Jackets must admit that they only know so much about Merzlikins.
That said, Elvis has been a stunning smash hit for the Blue Jackets. While his 13-9-8 record is merely modest, Merzlikins sports a .923 save percentage, and his advanced stats are promising. By Hockey Reference’s version of Goals Saved Against Average, Merzlikins ranked ninth in the NHL with a 12.10 mark this season.
Merzlikins is 13-9-8 this season with a 2.35 GAA and .923 save percentage and five shutouts. That .923 is tied for the third-best season mark in #CBJ history at the moment, while the 2.35 GAA would place fifth in Jackets single-season annals.
— Jeff Svoboda (@JacketsInsider) April 23, 2020
John Tortorella’s system helped the goalies involved, but Merzlikins played an enormous role in helping Columbus stay in playoff contention. That’s no small feat considering the wave of injuries that besieged the Blue Jackets.
At first, it was a little surprising that Merzlikins ($4M) will carry a larger cap hit than Korpisalo ($2.8M). After all, the Blue Jackets worked hard during the expansion draft to make sure they could keep Korpi.
But Korpisalo hasn’t delivered quite as they hoped. The 2019-20 season represents one of his better efforts, yet even then Korpisalo was merely solid with a .911 save percentage. If you had to bet on one of these two goalies putting together elite work, you might swing for the fences with Merzlikins.
Of course, goalies remain a mystery to most of us, so who knows? If nothing else, the Blue Jackets kept a cheap tandem together that’s reasonably young. It sure beats, well (insert Bobrovsky joke that’s almost cruel at this point).
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