Just days after signing their starting goalie to a contract extension, the Columbus Blue Jackets have done the same with their second-stringer.
The team announced on Thursday that they agreed to terms on a two-year contract extension with rookie Elvis Merzlikins. The Riga, Latvia native was a standout performer in his first season and was recently ranked the No. 1 rookie aged 25 or older by NHL.com .
“We’ve believed for several years that Elvis Merzlikins was the best goaltender outside the NHL while he was playing in Switzerland and this year he has shown that he has the ability and drive to be a very good goaltender in this league,” Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said in the team’s press release. “He is quick, athletic and driven to succeed and we are excited to see what the future holds for Elvis and our hockey club.”
The 26-year-old Merzlikins played for Swiss team HC Lugano from 2011-2019, winning the Jacques Plante Trophy for the best goalie in Switzerland twice (2016, 2018). He was selected by Columbus in the third round of the 2012 draft before finally making his NHL debut this season.
In his first year in the league, Merzlikins started 31 games, posting a 13-9-8 record. He led all rookie netminders in GAA (2.35) and shutouts (five) and led the entire NHL in GAA between Dec. 31 and the pause in the season on March 12. The netminder also posted a .923 save percentage, which put him sixth among NHL goalies with a minimum of 20 games.
The news of his extension comes less than a week after the Blue Jackets’ starter, Joonas Korpisalo, put pen to paper on a two-year extension of his own . Korpisalo had the best season of his NHL career this year, winning 19 of the 37 games he played and named to his first All-Star game. He suffered a knee injury earlier this year that kept him out for almost two months, during which time Merzlikins deputized in goal.
With both of their top netminders locked up for the near future, the Blue Jackets have found stability at the position despite the departure of Sergei Bobrovsky last offseason. Merzlikins and Korpisalo are also both still a few years away from the age of 30, so we could be seeing the two battle it out for the starting job for years to come.
Source: Read Full Article