Over the past couple of weeks we’ve been looking at trade deadline options for key Blue Jackets players who might be dealt. Today, we’ll discuss goaltender Joonas Korpisalo and what the team might expect in return for his services at the deadline.
It’s hard to believe, but it’s been almost 11 years since Joonas Korpisalo was drafted in the third round by the Blue Jackets. He was taken by the team 62nd overall at the 2012 NHL Draft; a year in which they took Ryan Murray second overall. Josh Anderson was taken in the fourth round of the draft that year, and while all three of these players became key parts of the John Tortorella-era Jackets – it’s Joonas who has stuck with the organization through it all.
There have been plenty of ups and downs throughout Korpisalo’s time in Columbus. He was given the slow path to the NHL, but was thrust into playing time during the 2015-16 season due to injury. And he was terrific that year, winning 16 of his 31 games played and posting a career-high .920 save percentage.
He returned to Cleveland for the stretch run that year, and was part of the Calder Cup winning Lake Erie Monsters team that spring. Over time, he became the backup goaltender in Columbus, bringing some consistency to the role behind star netminder Sergei Bobrovsky for the better part of three seasons.
But the summer of 2019 saw the Bobrovsky – and several other key players – depart via free agency. Korpisalo was thrust into splitting time with newcomer Elvis Merzlikins in the Columbus crease. Unfortunately, he was never able to fully run with the starting job here.
That isn’t entirely his fault. Merzlikins quickly became a fan favorite, while Korpisalo fought through some tough injuries. The team in front of them has progressively worsened, which has led to both of them having struggles here and there. Joonas struggled and was vastly outplayed last year, until eventually shutting things down for hip surgery.
Having a repaired hip has helped rejuvenate his career. After signing a one-year “show me” contract with the Jackets, he’s easily been the best goalie in the Columbus crease so far this year, posting a .908 save percentage and accounting for more than half of the team’s wins on the season.
His value might not be what it once was (it probably peaked during the 2020 playoff bubble); but he has done a fine job providing stability to a young team. There may be a couple of teams looking to use him as their main starter, but if nothing else he’s proven that he can be an excellent backup, and might be able to step in and win some games in the playoffs if need be.
Any team looking to add some assurance to their crease for the playoffs, should have Joonas at or near the top of their list at the trade deadline. His $1.3m cap hit is very easy for any team in the league to swallow, and he could make a big difference for that dollar amount.
Korpisalo is a pending UFA that will likely be looking for a contract with the highest bidder in the offseason – and it’s possible that the team that acquires him won’t be the ones to offer him that contract. Most of the teams in the playoff hunt have their starters picked and signed. For this reason, I don’t expect a huge bounty to return to the Jackets in any deal for him.
My best guess is, they’ll be looking for a couple of mid-late round picks up front. Think similar to the return for Oliver Bjorkstrand but slightly less – maybe a fourth and sixth round pick. Depending on the number of suitors and how desperate they are, that could go up or down.
On a personal level, it will be tough to see Korpisalo dealt for futures. He’s been here forever, and through the ups and downs of this team, he’s been there and done his job mostly well. But as the team rebuilds, it’s important to get returns on expiring assets, which is the case here.