Blue Jackets send C Cole Sillinger to AHL Cleveland
Elvis Merzlikins is the worst goalie in the NHL.
He is also in the first year of a five-year, $5.4M annual cap hit extension he signed before the 2021-22 season.
However, he is coming off his best performance of the season, stopping 18 of 19 shots in the Blue Jackets 1-0 loss to the Capitals on Sunday.
The first shot on goal he faced was a wrist shot by Erik Gustafsson from the left circle that deflected off of Tim Berni's skate and went through Merzlikins' five-hole. Merzlikins has given up several bad goals this season, but that was not one of them.
#ALLCAPS Gustafsson goal pic.twitter.com/UlVzSI7ELs— Coby Maeir (@CobyMaeir) January 8, 2023
Merzlikins, who has posted a .865 save percentage and a 4.52 goals-against average this season, stopped the last 18 shots he faced which kept the Blue Jackets in the game, which is all you can ask from your goalie. Unfortunately, that's not how the season has gone for Merzlikins so far. Through 16 appearances in 2022-23, Sunday was just the second time this season he posted a save percentage above .915, and the third time his save percentage was above .900.
Per moneypuck.com, he is last among the 81 goalies who have played this season with -19.8 goals saved above expected. For context, Joonas Korpisalo ranks 15th with 7.0 and Daniil Tarasov ranks 52nd with -0.6.
With his contract being what it is, it'll be difficult for the Blue Jackets to trade Merzlikins unless they add several valuable assets to the deal, so in the time being, he's going to have to step up in a big way. Maybe not this season, but next year and beyond when the goal should be to at least compete for a playoff spot.
If he continues to perform as he did on Sunday, the contract won't look bad at all. But, in order to reassert himself as the goalie of the future, he's going to have to play well consistently. Will he be able to do that? Only time will tell. But the Blue Jackets sure need him that from him.