The Columbus Blue Jackets are getting ready for next season and that includes making sure they can count on a good goalie to take the reigns in between the pipes if Sergei Bobrovsky leaves to test the free-agency market in July.
Back in April, the Blue Jackets and top goalie Elvis Merzlikins agreed to terms on a contract that was made official by the team on Wednesday.
The deal is a one-year, one-way NHL contract.
Merzlikins, who is currently playing for Latvia at the 2019 IIHF World Championships.
The 25-year-old netminder posted a 22-18-0 record with a 2.44 goals-against average (GAA), .921 save percentage (SV%) and a career-high five shutouts in 43 games with Lugano of the Swiss National League (NLA) in 2018-19. He finished the season ranked second-T in the league in wins, third-T in shutouts, fourth in save percentage and eighth in goals-against average.
Bobrovsky could hit the free-agent market on July 1st, as many believe he won’t return to Columbus. The goalie is expected to fetch Carey Price money on his new contract and recently sold his home in Columbus to intensify speculations of his departure from the Jackets.
Here are some more informations on Merzlikins, provided by the Jackets’ website:
A native of Riga, Latvia, Merzlikins registered a 105-79-7 record with a 2.63 GAA, .920 SV% and 15 shutouts in 210 career NLA games with Lugano. In 2017-18, he captured his second Jacques Plante Trophy as the league's Goaltender of the Year after finishing third-T in the NLA in shutouts, fourth in wins and fifth in SV% with a 19-15-1 record, 2.72 GAA, .921 SV% and four shutouts in 40 contests. He won his first Jacques Plante Trophy in 2015-16 after leading the league in saves (1,484) and ranking second in SV% and fifth in wins with a 23-13-4 record, 2.76 GAA, .922 SV% and a shutout in 44 contests.
The 6-3, 187-pound netminder has represented Latvia in several international tournaments. He was named a top three player for his country at the 2016, 2017 and 2018 IIHF World Championships. In the 2018 tournament, he posted a 1.50 GAA and .940 SV% in six contests. He was selected by the Blue Jackets in the third round, 76th overall, at the 2014 NHL Draft.