On Friday, the Columbus Blue Jackets re-signed backup goaltender Joonas Korpisalo to a one-year contract extension through 2022-23.
The $1.3M salary is a significant demotion for the 28-year-old, but it keeps him in the NHL for at least one more season. He'll be a UFA again after next season, giving both club and player maximum flexibility heading into the future. Here are the pros and cons of the move.
The Blue Jackets should be more competitive next season, but with a 20+ point gap recently separating them from the 8th best team in the Eastern Conference, they won't be projected to make the playoffs. As such, having an inexpensive and short-term contract for a backup goalie makes a ton of sense.
Worst case scenario, Korpisalo continues to be among the worst goalies in the NHL, and the Blue Jackets let him walk in free agency next offseason. Best case scenario, he outkicks his recent coverage and the Blue Jackets are able to move him at the trade deadline for, well, anything.
This signing clearly signals that the Blue Jackets want to give Danill Tarasov one more season of ripening in the AHL. That makes sense, too, because Tarasov, 23, needs to be playing games to continue his development, and will have more opportunities to do so at the AHL level. If Tarasov proves he is ready for more, or an injury to either Korpisalo or Elvis Merzlikins occurs, he will be available for recall.
Korpisalo hasn't been a league-average goalie for the past several seasons, and there's no reason to think that he will be markedly better after coming off of major hip surgery. Why, then, give this player another year? Would it have made more sense to get eyes on a different goalie, who may or may not be part of your future, as opposed to retaining Korpisalo, who clearly will not be?
I also think an argument could be made that Tarasov should be given more of a look at the NHL level. Gone are the days of starting goalies eating 65+ games. Giving Tarasov, who is currently an RFA but is likely to accept his qualifying offer at one-year, $874,125, a 30-game tryout in the NHL this year would have been perfectly acceptable. But I won't nitpick the decision to give him the reins at the AHL level for the coming season.
More than anything, extending Korpisalo is an admission that the team expects to be outside the playoffs for the third straight season. There really is no other way to justify signing a goalie who recently finished 72nd out of 74 in the NHL in save percentage (minimum 10 games played) in 2021-22.
At the end of the day, the Blue Jackets know Korpisalo, and Korpisalo knows the Blue Jackets. This is a low-risk, low-reward signing that gives the Blue Jackets flexibility on the current roster and time for Tarasov to continue his development. It's not a sexy signing, but it has utility.