So, should we flip a coin?
The Columbus Blue Jackets signed Joonas Korpisalo (.911 SV%, 2.60 GAA, 37 GP) to a two-year contract extension on Friday worth an AAV of $2.8M. Korpisalo was set to become a restricted free agent at this season's end (whenever that might be).
That's one side of the coin. On the other, we see another young, talented goaltender in Elvis Merzlikins (.923 SV%, 2.35 GAA, 33 GP) that took the Blue Jackets fan base by storm this season (after a rocky start), who will too be an RFA this summer.
One is a seasoned NHL goaltender with All-Star honors but spent all of his years until now as a backup. The other is a newly-acquainted North American goaltender who has been highly touted for years in regards to his potential.
Do the Blue Jackets need to pick between the two? Or at the very least, would it be wise to do so right now, or can they hold off a bit and see how this plays out?
For starters, recent history has shown us that Stanley Cup-winning teams don't dabble with the whole "split goaltender" ideology. In the past couple of decades, only two championship teams have really split time between two goaltenders during the postseason and regular season. One being the 2016-2017 Pittsburgh Penguins (Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury) and the 2005-2006 Carolina Hurricanes (Cam Ward and Martin Gerber).
However - again, we're talking about Stanley Cup-winning teams. Realistically, the Blue Jackets aren't even close to that window again and may not be for another three to four years.
Last year, the New York Islanders played the split-time game with Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss in the regular season but rode with Lehner in the postseason. The team then chose to stick with Greiss and let Lehner walk, which has been a fair decision for them so far, but now they have Semyon Varlamov splitting time with Greiss. They might keep this strategy going forever.
As a young (we know, we know) team like the Blue Jackets continues to grow (and slightly rebuild and retool from their free agency losses) I think it is a wise decision to continue to split the time between Korpisalo and Merzlikins, at least until the end of their next contracts. Which, brings up another question - will Merzlikins be "OK" with getting paid less than his counterpart despite a better statistical season?
Once the team (hopefully) jumps in line for a serious postseason push, then it would be wise in my mind to give someone the reigns, but maybe it will have figured itself out at that point. An injury could happen, one goaltender could fall off the map - time and change may be the best ally in this situation.
Nothing wrong with some internal competition, right? Well, maybe not right, if you ask the 2015 Ohio State Buckets football team.
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