Troubles In Net: The Blue Jackets Have A Serious Goaltending Problem

By Coby Maeir on February 14, 2024 at 1:45 pm
Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins (90) defends the net against the St. Louis Blues during the second period at Enterprise Center.
© Jeff Le-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Jackets are a bad hockey team. 

They have won 16 of their 52 games and sit in 29th place in the league standings while being last in the Eastern Conference for the second consecutive season. They're also allowing 3.71 goals per game, which is 31st in the league. 

While the team has suffered from several atrocious defensive breakdowns, the goaltending has been equally atrocious at other times. 

Tuesday's 6-3 loss to the 28th-place Ottawa Senators saw Daniil Tarasov allow five goals on 3.58 expected goals, per That's an abysmal -1.42 goals saved above expected (GSAx) in last night's game. 

Among the 68 goalies with at least 10 games played this season, Tarasov is last in GSAx/60 minutes with -0.874. The second-worst goalie, Chicago's Arvid Soderblom, has a GSAx/60 of -0.574.

After a promising start to his NHL career in 2021-22 where he posted a .937SV% and a 2.40 GAA in four games, he had hip surgery in February 2022 and has played in just 43 pro games since then due to various injuries in addition to his hip ailment. 

In his last two NHL seasons, he's played in 28 games and posted an .886SV% along with a 3.91 GAA. 

Tarasov would have to clear waivers if the team were to send him down. At this point, would a team claim him? He still has a year left on his contract at $1.05M. 

Now to the team's starter, Elvis Merzlikins, who is in the second year of a five-year, $5.4M AAV deal and has been in more headlines regarding his trade request than his play. 

In 29 games this season, he's posted a .904SV%, a 3.21 GAA, and 0.47 GSAx/60, which is 40th among goalies with at least 10 games played this season. This is a huge improvement over last season when he posted an .876SV% and a 4.23 GAA, but it's still around the league average. Excluding Carey Price and Matt Murray who are both on long-term injury reserve and therefore don't count against the salary cap, Merzlikins is the ninth-highest-paid goalie in the NHL according to, so league average isn't going to cut it. 

The Blue Jackets' best goalie this season has been Jet Greaves, who played two games with the club this season and posted 7.1 GSAx, which is still 15th-best in the NHL. He's played just three NHL games since making his pro debut with the organization in 2021-22, so will he receive a real chance in the future or does the organization not view him as an NHL goalie?

Elsewhere, Nolan Lalonde, who was signed by the Jackets as an undrafted free agent, is posting an .879SV% in 24 OHL games for the Saginaw Spirit and an .837SV% in four OHL games for the Erie Otters this season. Melvin Strahl, the No. 156 overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft, has posted a .911SV% in 26 games in Sweden's U20 league. Sergei Ivanov was the 138th overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft and has recorded a .957SV% in three KHL games with SKA St. Petersburg and a .928SV% in 30 KHL games with Admiral Vladivostok this season. 

The 20-year-old Lalonde, 18-year-old Strahl, and 19-year-old Ivanov are all likely at least a few seasons away, so unless Merzlikins or Tarasov turns it around or Greaves proves to be a legit option, the Blue Jackets will likely have to look outside the organization for goaltending help. 

View 8 Comments