With Joonas Korpisalo and Daniil Tarasov owning the better play this season, some people have speculated on the team trading Elvis Merzlikins at the deadline in spite of his long-term contract with the Jackets. I’m almost certain that will not happen.
Merzlikins is signed with the Jackets for another four seasons after this one, with a cap hit of $5.4m AAV. This is actually the first year of his five-year extension, signed in the fall of 2021, which gives him the salary and tenure you expect from a starting goalie. Unfortunately, for all of the reasons mentioned, he’s struggled this year to the tune of just an 87.1% save percentage.
Taking all of this into account, you’re taking a talented, competitive goaltender that you signed to a long-term deal, but has struggled behind a team decimated by injuries and youth this year. You’re trying to sell him at bottom dollar to try and extend a guy coming off of serious hip surgery, whose value might actually be pretty high at this point. Think about all of that for a second.
The absolute best outcome here, is Merzlikins regaining the form that saw him earn this contract extension and stamp of faith from management in Columbus. He’s shown us that he can be a starter in this league before, that he can steal the spotlight under pressure and win games he has no business winning.
Getting back into that groove will help this franchise immensely, and it’s really the only outcome that we should be hoping for here. Trading him with a likely retained cap hit for pennies on the dollar, or buying him out, is not something we should be asking for as fans. Elvis remained loyal to the team and the city of Columbus; it’s up to us as fans, and the team to repay him by helping him through his struggles.
We saw glimpses of that for the first time in his most recent game, Saturday night in Toronto. The team was down 2-0 after the first period, but Elvis kept them in the game with some incredible saves. The team, finally, for what seems like the first time this season, rallied around him and stole the win.
If they can trend in that direction and perform better for him, his numbers will improve. So will his confidence. His contract situation means that he’s going to be in the crease here for at least the next handful of seasons. So back your goaltender, fifth line. The team isn’t going to trade him, and he needs our support.