Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins celebrates a win in Columbus
Photo credit: Sportsnet

Another surprising name lands on the trading block ahead of the deadline

Published January 12, 2024 at 8:41 PM
BY DEAN CHAUDHRY

The Columbus Blue Jackets have found themselves near the bottom of the standings yet again and it seems as though one of their better players is available for any contending team looking to upgrade their goaltending.

Despite his clear struggles this season, Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins had not requested a trade out of Columbus. However, he did confirm that the club has approached him and that both sides are aware of the fact that sometbing needs to change and both sides would welcome a change at this point.

Merzlikins, who has played his entire career in a Blue Jackets jersey, wanted to establish something right off the hop.

"I love Columbus. I love these guys. I grew up here."



He also made it crystal clear that he's not willing to accept a reduced role with the team at this point in his career.

"I'm not a backup goaltender."

The Blue Jackets entered the off-season white-hot as they made trades to acquire defensemen Damon Severson and Ivan Provorov while also hiring Mike Babcock as their head coach. The Babcock drama that unfolded just before the season started did them no favours, ultimately leading to Babcock being replaced. To add insult to injury, Zach Werenski and Patrik Laine have been forced to miss time due to injury and Johnny Gaudreau has not found his scoring touch from his Calgary days - although he paces the club with 25 points through 42 games.

All of this has culminated in Columbus sitting in 8th in the Metropolitan Division with a paltry 13-20-9 record, 15th in the Eastern Conference, and 28th in the NHL ahead of just Anaheim, Ottawa, Chicago, and San Jose, despite the club having drafted Canadian standout Adam Fantilli with the 3rd overall pick this past June.

The 29-year-old Merzlikins is playing in his 5th NHL season, carries a 62-70-28 record all-time with a .906 SV% and a 3.15 G.A.A. On the season he's currently 7-8-6 with a .907 SV% and a 3.25 G.A.A. but has received almost no help from the team in front of him and has been in a timeshare with Spencer Martin and Daniil Tarasov, as the teams prepare for life after Merzlikins.

The caveat here is that Merzlikins has 3 more years remaining beyond 2023-24 and carries a modified no-trade clause. He is open to the idea of being moved and wants to be a starting goaltender and considering the amount of teams that are in dire need for an upgrade, he fits the bill. His cap hit is rather high at $5.4 million, so the framework for a deal could take some time, but he has played relatively well for a bad team over his career.

If the Leafs are still in the market for a goaltender, and if the Blue Jackets are okay with taking Samsonov back in the deal and retaining a small amount of salary, there might be a deal to be made there, though I'm sure the Blue Jackets would prefer to deal him out of conference.

POLL
January 12   |   645 answers
Another surprising name lands on the trading block ahead of the deadline

Would you take Elvis Merzlikins in Toronto instead of Ilya Samsonov?

No, there are better options16725.9 %
Yes, a Merzlikins/Woll tandem would be solid27542.6 %
Only if the price is right20331.5 %
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