Nine games into the NHL season, the Blue Jackets seem to have found their roster, for the most part. There are still moves to be made to the back end as they need to free up the logjam. But with two goaltenders performing pretty well – what will the Jackets do when another goaltender, Daniil Tarasov, returns from season opening IR?
As the roster sits, it’s easy to see how things might get complicated in a hurry. Right now, the team has 13 forwards, 8 defensemen, and 2 goaltenders in active status. That meets the NHL limit of 23 players; which means that something has to give before the team can activate Tarasov from IR. Which seems to be coming soon.
The forwards are pretty well set. At least, that’s how it seems. They’re only carrying one extra, and have been rotating the healthy scratch on a near-nightly basis. It’s also hard to see this team being in a hurry to move on from Spencer Martin, who’s carrying a sparkling .922 save percentage in his four games played. Elvis Merzlikins hasn’t put up the same kind of numbers, but I think he’s starting to come out of the funk we’ve seen him in over the last couple of seasons. And, they’re not moving that cap hit in a realistic world anyway. He’s their guy.
The likeliest moves seem to be on defense. But the only guy who is waiver exempt on the back-end is David Jiricek, who has played his way into a second pairing role to start the season. I don’t see the team risking any player on the current roster to waivers, to it seems like the impending return of Daniil Tarasov could go a couple of ways.
First, I think the team could risk losing Tarasov by trying to sneak him to the AHL. In seasons past, this would be a laughable thought. After all, he was the heir apparent in goal here. But now, he’s 24 years old, and is still just future promise. He has yet to put together enough games at any level to show that he can still be that guy. That’s concerning. While it’s possible that teams would see that remaining potential and take a flyer on him; do they feel comfortable bringing in a guy who hasn’t played 30 games in a single season at any level since 2019-20?
The other thought I had here: what if one of the goaltenders is part of a trade package to help free up the back end? This could give us a glimpse into why the team hasn’t yet traded Andrew Peeke, or Adam Boqvist, or whoever you think the defenseman to be moved is. Maybe there’s a team out there that needs to bring in a veteran backup like Spencer Martin, but the Jackets just haven’t felt comfortable moving him without another backup?
Whatever the plan is, it’s obvious that Tarasov’s return is going to force their hand in some way here. Maybe they’ll have to take less than they wanted for a player via trade. But, this move likely makes for yet another difficult decision to a player actively on the roster. Not a decision I would want to make. Let’s not even start talking about Patrik Laine’s eventual return!