Earlier this week, we proposed that the Columbus Blue Jackets should strike while the iron is hot and trade one of their two goaltenders for scoring help.
The premise is easy enough to understand. The Blue Jackets have two relatively young, affordable, highly-capable goaltenders in Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins but just one crease. Their stock (particularly Korpisalo's) is at an all-time high. All things being equal, would the Blue Jackets rather have two great goalies than one? Of course, but all things aren't equal. This team has a major scoring deficiency, and in order to take the next step, they'll need to address and improve their top six. As Brad Pitt suggests in Fight Club, if you wanna make an omelet, you gotta break some eggs.
Of course, trading a player (much less a goalie) is easier to do behind a keyboard or in NHL20. It's harder in real life where there are real-life implications. Allow us to help set the stage for what could be a fascinating offseason for goaltenders:
The Blue Jackets aren't the only team who could theoretically be looking to move on from one of their goaltenders. The New York Rangers have three NHL-caliber goaltenders (Henrik Lundqvist, Alexandar Georgiev, and Igor Shestyorkin) and President of Hockey Operations John Davidson has already said that the Rangers won't begin next season with all three. The Pittsburgh Penguins have two pending RFA goalies in Tristan Jarry and Matt Murray. GM Jim Rutherford said there's "a very, very good chance that we’re going to have to move one of them”.
Although many teams are all set with their tandem heading into next season, there are plenty of organizations that could use an upgrade. Playoff teams like Calgary, Edmonton, Minnesota, and Carolina surely feel that a high-end goalie could help them get closer to the promised land. Teams that are in the (re)building phases of their development, like San Jose, Detroit, and Buffalo, may look to upgrade from their current situations, but may not be willing to spend big on premier UFAs. Either of those situations could ultimately lead to a match with a team like the Blue Jackets.
While the Blue Jackets, Rangers, and Penguins will be seeking assets as part of a trade, other teams will be able to acquire a UFA for just cost. That's a problem for the aforementioned clubs with a surplus in goal because this is a freakishly deep UFA goalie class. Jacob Markstrom, Robin Lehner, Braden Holtby, Corey Crawford, and Anton Khudobin are the headliners, but veterans like Cam Talbot, Thomas Greiss, Mike Smith, Jimmy Howard, and Craig Anderson could also expect to find work next season.
Some of these goalies will inevitably re-sign with their current team, but many are expected to move on. That poses an issue for Columbus, who may find that the juice isn't worth the squeeze in a potential trade with an oversaturated goalie market. The one saving grace for the Blue Jackets is that with a flat salary cap, Korpisalo becomes an even more attractive trade piece due to his extremely salary cap-friendly contract. On the other hand, teams will always have an ace in the hole, being able to sign someone like a Ryan Miller or Brian Elliott for bargain bin pricing.
It will likely be an active offseason of goalie musical chairs across the NHL. But when the music stops, a situation could easily arise where the Blue Jackets feel justified in holding onto both goaltenders when they realize that the trade market doesn't lead to the returns they hoped.