Last week the Columbus Blue Jackets extended the contract of goaltender Elvis Merzlikins. Jarmo Kekalainen and company gave Merzlikins, 26, a healthy bump in salary, pushing him up to $4-million per year through the next two seasons. This pushes the Latvian netminder above Joonas Korpisalo but still doesn’t provide any clear answers on who will start moving forward.
Elvis Merzlikins Contract Extension Not Offering Clarity
Despite what would offer clarity in a vast majority of other situations, the extension that Merzlikins recently received has not done that. There is still a widely-held opinion that either goaltender could take the reigns full time for the Blue Jackets going into the 2020-21 season. And it is certainly safe to say that both have plenty to back that claim up.
While this argument could be hashed out over and over, and it has, it won’t be here. This was previously discussed in a prior article examining the case each netminder brings to the table in regards to starting.
Clarity on the Disparity
The one thing that has left some fans scratching their heads is the disparity in money for each goaltender. Generally speaking, a goalie who has a bigger sample size and has proven to be talented will get a bigger contract than one with less than a full season under his belt. As we have seen from this current situation, that is not always the case.
Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Kekalainen provided clarity on why this was the case in Columbus. He stated that their cases in arbitration would have been much different. This is primarily due to the fact that there were almost no goalies performing at the level of Merzlikins. There were even less when you take his age into account.
The fact that Merzlikins was top five in virtually every major statistical category supports this. Having five shutouts and a .923 save percentage in his first full season is a prime example of this statement.
No Answers Yet
So while this all might add up to a bit of a head-scratcher on who takes the reigns, it certainly comes with a silver lining. The Blue Jackets now have two goaltenders with arguments to be starters signed for the next two seasons for $6.8-million per year. And for a team who many thought they would be bottom dwellers, that is great on paper.
When you take into account that this is $3.2-million less than former netminder Sergei Bobrovsky was demanding it begins to look like a steal. An argument could also be made, at least currently, that it’s for a better product as well. It once again becomes clear how well the front office is doing in decision making for playing personnel.
Silver Linings Come in Tandems
Outside of the monetary aspect, there is another silver lining to this set-up. Columbus now has two (somewhat) proven starters for the price of one. This is something that any organization in the NHL would kill for. If one of the two is injured, or in a slump, the Blue Jackets can play the healthy (or hot) goaltender.
This point also plays in their favour when fighting for a playoff spot, and then making a deeper run into said playoffs. It has been proven time and time again that teams who play tandem goalies fare far better than teams who ride a goalie into the ground. For a prime example of the latter, look at the 2016-17 Edmonton Oilers.
All in all, the argument over who will start will continue to be a subjective matter. What is most important is that the Blue Jackets have arguably the best goaltending tandem in the NHL. And this for less than most top-level netminders go for per year. Quite the silver lining when you look at it that way.
Main Photo: COLUMBUS, OH – JANUARY 16: Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins (90) tends net during the game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Carolina Hurricanes at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio on January 16, 2020. (Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)