If the Blue Jackets Did Trade a Goaltender, Who Should It Be?

By Sam Blazer on March 31, 2021 at 2:45 pm
Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Joonas Korpisalo (70) heads for the bench as he is replaced by goaltender Elvis Merzlikins (90) during the second period against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Eastern Conference qualifications at Scotiabank Arena.
John E. Sokolowski - USA Today Sports

The Columbus Blue Jackets are going to be faced with a lot of decisions in the coming weeks about how they want their hockey team to be built. They have glaring issues in some places and strengths in others.

One of the areas of strength is the team's goaltending duo of Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo. Both were given deals this past offseason and were set in such a way to coincide with one another. Neither of the two are going to be exposed during the upcoming expansion draft with Merzlikins being exempt. With the likes of prospect Daniil Tarasov coming up through the ranks, it isn't the worst idea for the team to deal from the position of strength.

So how do they determine who should be dealt?

Surprisingly, the decision on who should be dealt is a lot simpler than one realizes. Career numbers for the two show that it is a wide gap, albeit with one side having a smaller sample.

In 152 games played for Korpisalo, he has a .906 save percentage, which is decidedly below league average. Taking a look at his GSAA compared to the league average, he was only above league average during his first two years in the league. He continuously underperforms against those expectations.

Compare that to Merzlikins, who has a .921 save percentage in 48 games played. That's well above the league average that hovers around .911. Both this season and last, Merzlikins has performed better than the league average on his GSAA. So far, Merzlikins has outperformed Korpisalo.

Of course, you'll run into variables. You may be worried about Merzlikin's small sample size. Korpisalo, in his first season, had a .920 save percentage before falling off a cliff. You also can take into consideration the fact that Merzlikins has a higher cap hit. That could be prohibitive when talking trades during the year. 

Merzlikins being a tad more of an unknown would also make him more tantalizing as a trade piece. Has he hit his ceiling yet? Could he continue to improve and eventually be a bargain? Add the fact that he has an exempt status at the draft, and that is an exception that could be tantalizing for a team putting together a strong goalie duo. Regardless, Korpisalo has shown what he is and he has flashes of brilliance tied into spats of play that are decidedly less appealing for a franchise backstop.

The best part of this potential decision is that they aren't forced into a decision either way. Both have years on their contract but the value for someone like Merzlikins may never be higher. Is that enough for the Blue Jackets to pounce on a trade? 

Merzlikins is the better player as of now, but the team needs to decide what they value moving forward. If it is a better return, then they may already have their answer.

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