The Columbus Blue Jackets fanbase has stop holding its breath on what star goalie Sergei Bobrovsky will do this summer. The pending free agent, who remained a Jacket after the trade deadline, is expected to seek big money on the market on July 1st.
However now, fans in Columbus can push a sigh of relief. According to team insider Aaron Portzline of The Athletic, the Jackets are closing in on a one-year, entry-level contract with goaltender Elvis Merzlikins, who would make the leap to America sooner than expected. If everything gets set shortly, the 24-year-old goalie could make his debut with the Cleveland Monster March 29-30 versus Lehigh Valley in Quicken Loans Arena. That way, he would burn his entry-level deal, making him a restricted free agent July 1.
The perfect plan for the post-Bobrovsky era in Columbus. While Portzline does not believe Merzlikins would be used by the final stretch of the regular season calendar, the newbie could come in for the playoffs.
“If Cleveland’s season ends while the Blue Jackets are still playing in the playoffs, Merzlikins could be among a host of top prospects and respected veterans recalled to Columbus to get a taste of the Stanley Cup playoffs,” Portzline notes.
“Merzlikins has been hailed as the “best goaltender outside the NHL” for the last few seasons after dominating in Switzerland’s top league with Lugano and on an international stage, including the IIHF World Championships, for his native Latvia.”
This sounds very promising for the Jackets who are expected to lose both Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin to the free-agency market this upcoming July.
Sure sounds like a great news for the Blue Jackets!