What Options do the CBJ have in Goal if Merzlikins is Traded?

The Jackets will likely have to move on from Elvis Merzlikins at some point. Unless they can salvage their relationship with the disgruntled netminder, they would be wise to start preparing for a future without him.
Columbus Blue Jackets v New York Islanders
Columbus Blue Jackets v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

The relationship between the Blue Jackets and Elvis Merzlikins is shaky (at best) right now. The Latvian netminder has been with the organization since 2014 and has been playing with the Blue Jackets since 2020. However, the two sides appear headed for a divorce.

Elvis told the media that he wanted a “new scenario” and that he had requested a trade (a statement later disputed by team President John Davidson, via the player's agent). While finding a trade partner will be difficult this season, it is not out of the realm of possibility in the offseason. If the Blue Jackets decide to part ways with Elvis, what options do they have for starting goaltenders going forward?

The Blue Jackets could give the starting job to Daniil Tarasov. However, he has not been able to stay healthy for a full season in North America. Furthermore, when he has gotten the opportunity to showcase his abilities this season, he has not particularly shined. He is sporting a 4.09 goals against average and a 0.875 save percentage this season (prior to Thursday night's win in Calgary). Those numbers are not good and would not give the CBJ a good chance to win on a nightly basis.

What about Jet Greaves? In his limited action in the NHL, he has looked very good. In 3 career games, he has a 0.936 save percentage and 2.70 goals against average. And those numbers were on two poor teams. Maybe they would be even better if the Jackets were a better overall team. Despite his good play, the organization seems keen to keep him in the AHL. Maybe they are concerned about his size? He is 6’0” and is small for an NHL goaltender.

Or, maybe they just want to see more consistency from him in the AHL? His numbers have been up-and-down for the Cleveland Monsters through his career. I think Greaves will get a chance to play in the NHL someday. But my gut tells me that he will likely be destined for a backup role unless he shows consistency.

The Blue Jackets don’t have any goaltender prospects who are projected to be solid, starting goaltenders in the NHL. The best prospect is Russian netminder Sergei Ivanov, who is performing well in the KHL. He has a 0.931 save percentage and has been one of the better goalies in that league. The biggest knock on him is his size. He’s 5’11”, which puts him at a significant disadvantage in the NHL. Other prospects within the organization include Melvin Strahl and Nolan Lalonde.

Seeing as how the Blue Jackets don’t have a good option for the starting goaltender position in the absence of Merzlikins, it should be a top priority of the organization to find one. The best way to do that is to draft and develop a goaltender. I believe that they will take a goalie with one of their top 4 picks in the 2024 NHL Draft. However, goalies take longer to develop than other players. A goalie drafted in 2024 may not be ready until 2026 or later. So, for the short term, the CBJ will likely be looking to acquire a goaltender via trade or free agency.