Joonas Korpisalo was probably the biggest question mark the Blue Jackets had coming into this season. Coming off of hip surgery, we didn’t know what his play might look like – but by the time he was dealt at the trade deadline, Joonas had re-established himself as a high end goaltender in this league.
What a difference a year can make. After seeing his save percentage dip below 90% over the last two seasons, Korpisalo ended his season early last year, opting for hip surgery to repair an issue that had been nagging him for years. It was a risky move for the pending UFA goaltender, one that honestly left his career up in the air.
But the Jackets did the right thing, signing a loyal team player to a one year, $1.3 million dollar deal. This was the perfect contract for both sides because it gave the team some security in goal with a team-friendly cap hit; while giving Joonas the chance to resurrect his career. If he would become a deadline chip, his low cap hit would make a trade simple. Fortunately for both sides, his play was superb, it all came together.
By the time Korpisalo took to the nets for the first time on November 5th, the Jacket season was well under way. His first start came in the Global Series in his native Finland, and he wasted no time settling in and quickly taking over the starting job. He went on to play 28 games for the Jackets this season (26 starts), carrying an 11-11-3 record with a .913 save percentage and 3.17 goals against average.
His 11 wins are nearly half of the total for the entire team (25) – in spite of the fact that he started fewer than a third of the games, and spent the last third of the season elsewhere. He was dealt to the LA Kings at the deadline, along with defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov; in exchange for some futures. His pace only picked up steam in LA, winning 7 of his 11 starts there and posting a crisp .921 save percentage, allowing just 2.13 goals per game.
Unfortunately for Joonas and the Kings, they were bounced in the first round by the powerhouse Edmonton Oilers – but it goes without saying that by being named starter in that series, and holding his own against a high flying team, Korpisalo has put his name firmly on the map as a starting goaltender in this league. What more can you hope for out of a guy who has given so much?
Final season stats: 39gp (37 starts), 18-14-4, .915% save percentage, 2.87 GAA, 1 shutout. Overall grade: A
Not only was Joonas the only consistently solid goaltender to suit up for the Jackets this season; he played at an elite level basically the entire time. This team’s defense was abysmal, and he held a .500 record in his time here. He should be sainted, or knighted, or given some kind of recognition for that. We’re hoping he gets a long-term contract to be a starting goaltender somewhere this summer. He has absolutely earned it.