Joonas Korpisalo is in the lineup for Monday's preseason game versus the Buffalo Sabres.
It will be the first in-game action for the 27-year-old goaltender since exiting an April 24th contest against the Tampa Bay Lightning with a lower-body injury.
Korpisalo will split time with Daniil Tarasov. In front of them, the Blue Jackets are putting their strongest lineup of the exhibition season by far. In fact, it's somewhere between possible and likely that the six defensemen skating for Columbus tonight will be their opening night pairings, and that should both goalies a high opportunity to see success.
A successful night is paramount for Korpisalo, because while he is likely entering his final season with the Columbus Blue Jackets, he remains a valuable asset to the team.
If Korpisalo plays as well as he's already shown he's capable of, the former All-Star will likely see a third year of rotation with fellow goalie Elvis Merzlikins and could help keep the Blue Jackets afloat in a highly competitive Metro division.
Ultimately, however, the reality is this: the better that Korpisalo plays, the more it will drive up his value in the eventual trade that is written (in large, bold letters) on the wall of inevitability.
Columbus has made it very clear who they view as their goalie of the future. Both Korpisalo and Merzlikins are 27, both were set to be unrestricted free agents at the end of the upcoming season, both have made it known that they are capable of and want to be the number one guy, and as both goalies have battled injuries over the last two seasons, it's also clear that both play better when they get regular, consistent time in net.
But it was Merzlikins, not Korpisalo, who got the long-term contract extension from Columbus.
The Blue Jackets leadership team continues to claim that the time between the pipes will go to the goalie who is playing better, and while that may be true today, it won't be true sometime between now and the March 21st, 2022 trade deadline.
The best case scenario for the Blue Jackets is this: Korpisalo remains healthy, and improves on his career-worst .894 save percentage from his 31 starts during last season. His numbers were below average across the board, so improving shouldn't be too tall of an order.
That will allow Columbus to maximize their return at the deadline, or sooner if a contending team sees a goalie setback through injury or poor play. That could happen at any time, not just the deadline, so the faster Korpisalo can start out of the gate, the better for all parties involved.
While Monday's game against the Sabres doesn't count in the standings, have no doubt that it will count very much to not only Korpisalo and the Blue Jackets, but to other teams around the league who - for now - are watching from afar.