Blue Jackets send C Cole Sillinger to AHL Cleveland
As reliable as Elvis Merzlikins was this past season, starting 82 games a year is not conducive to winning in today's NHL.
Besides, Merzlikins, there are no goaltenders under contract for the Jackets. This offseason, they need to find a backup, even if that player may have played for the Blue Jackets this past year. Joonas Korpisalo is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) and Daniil Tarasov is a restricted free agent (RFA). Both players underwent season-ending hip surgeries during the season. Both goaltenders are expected to be ready for the beginning of training camp. But for which team?
Korpisalo on his future: First of all, Im gonna get my hip 100%. Thats my first thought. But shit, Im open as well. I havent thought anything too much yet. #CBJ https://t.co/2FWgA7XHF0— Mark Scheig (@markscheig) May 1, 2022
This season, Korpisalo posted career-worsts in save percentage at .877 and goals-against average at 4.15. Part of that might be because of the hip injury that required surgery, but the 2020-21 season was not much better either. He posted an .894 SV% which was a career-low to that point. However, if he can return to health and 2019-2020 form, he will be a great backup to Merzlikins. Those are two big ifs though.
Tarasov has a much smaller body of work in the NHL than Merzlikins, playing in just four career games, all of them this past season. He impressed in those games, posting a .937SV% and a 2.40 goals-against average. In 17 AHL games across two seasons, he's registered a .894SV%. Whether or not the Jackets roll with either of these two as the backup next season is yet to be seen, but several UFA goaltenders are available this offseason.
DeSmith did a fine job for the Pittsburgh Penguins this season as Tristan Jarry's backup, posting a .914SV% in 26 games. He stopped 48 of 51 shots in game one of the first round against the Rangers before exiting the game with an injury that caused him to have core muscle surgery.
Holtby ended the season on long-term injury reserve (LTIR) but had a bounce-back year with the Dallas Stars after struggling in Vancouver in 2020-21. In 24 games for Dallas, he posted a .913SV%, up from his .899SV% in his lone season for the Canucks. He has pedigree, winning the Stanley Cup with Washington in 2017-18 and the Vezina Trophy in 2015-16.
Sticking with the Dallas Stars, Wedgewood played 37 games in the regular season and registered a .910SV%. Now that it seems Jake Oettinger has cemented himself as Dallas's goalie of the future, Holtby and/or Wedgewood will likely be in new spots next season.
Koskinen was signed to be the starter for the Edmonton Oilers, but that hasn't exactly worked out. In 45 games this season, his save percentage was .903, which led the Oilers to bench him in favor of Mike Smith, who has started all eight Oilers playoff games this season.
These are some of the top backup goaltenders on the market this summer. Whether the Jackets will target any of them is yet to be seen, however. Korpisalo has proven in the past that he can be a quality backup and very well could be the backup for Columbus this season, once he recovers from his hip surgery.