The Columbus Blue Jackets may be looking to trade Joonas Korpisalo sooner than later after he started for the second consecutive game. This could be an indication that the team is trying to showcase his talents in the hope that his numbers improve from last season in order to boost his value.
Last week, David Pagnotta joined NHL Now to discuss the future of Korpisalo in Columbus. It is the perfect time to get him his reps in, as there could be multiple teams vying for this goalie. He states that teams know his potential, and big clubs have inquired about him before.
After Elvis Merzlikins was locked up to a lucrative contract extension, it seems as though the Blue Jackets have chosen their future goaltender. This leaves Korpisalo on the last year of his deal as a major trade chip throughout the season and heading into the trade deadline.
Teams may be calling on him sooner rather than later though, depending on their situations. Three teams have a good reason to target Korpisalo this season, and any of them could pull the trigger now. The Buffalo Sabres could see Korpisalo as an option for the starter position, while the Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues are sorely in need of a secure backup or a 1B goalie.
Other possible options included the Edmonton Oilers, which I have covered in a previous article, as well as the Montreal Canadiens and Arizona Coyotes. The Canadiens made more sense a while ago, but Carey Price should return to the team soon, and then they’d be in a situation where they have three NHL-level goaltenders. They would probably have to turn around and trade one away. Arizona is in a deep rebuild, so unless they aren’t confident in a future goalie tandem of Karel Vejmelka and Josef Korenar, then they may elect to call Columbus. This would only work if it was a sign-and-trade situation, because the Coyotes don’t want to be giving up assets that can help their future.
Buffalo Sabres Need a Future No. 1 Goalie
The team in most need of a goalie in the NHL are the Sabres. Right now, the duo they’re running with is Craig Anderson and Dustin Tokarski. That’s not who any team ideally wants to build around, as neither would be a backup for most NHL clubs. Last season Anderson was the third goalie option for the Washington Capitals after Henrik Lundqvist wasn’t able to play, while Tokarski was the third/fourth option in the Sabres depth charts.
The Sabres lost a goalie that could’ve been great for the future of their organization in net in Linus Ullmark. Adding Anderson was just a sideways move at best after losing Carter Hutton. Their sights should be set on adding a goaltender with potential for the future. The extra incentive for someone they’re bringing in is to be able to have the starting position.
Korpisalo has held the starting job in Columbus on several occasions and performed amazingly in the playoffs against the Tampa Bay Lightning two seasons ago. He had a solid season in 2019-20 while splitting time, but things went south last season in a year that saw the Blue Jackets only play seven opponents.
By the way Buffalo is building a young and talented defence core, a focus on playing solid defensively could greatly help out Korpisalo, as his save percentage (SV%) is good this year, but the volume of shots raises his goals-against average (GAA). SV% is a more clear way of analyzing a goaltender’s ability than GAA, as the team could just allow a ton of shots each game and the goalie does his best. When Korpisalo has been in net so far this season, Columbus is a great example of this. In his three starts before last night, he had a SV% of .913 and a GAA of 3.27.
His postseason play speaks for itself, and when the Sabres do get back in the playoffs, he could be a key part of any success. The asking price could’ve been a first, but that seems a little too high for essentially a rental, but Korpisalo could possibly fetch a second round pick. The Sabres have two of those next season and would probably be willing to part with the Philadelphia Flyers’ pick or their own if they can sign him to an extension.
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Avalanche’s Goalie Injury History Suggests Backup Plan
The Avalanche have been hindered in recent years by the health of their goalies the most. This has affected them in both the regular season and playoffs, and their top two goalies both have had problems with injuries in the past.
Pavel Francouz, the current backup when he returns from injury, has yet to play a game since his stellar season in 2019-20. He posted a 2.41 GAA and .923 SV% in 34 games as the backup. The problem came in the playoffs when the team had three different goalies play four or more games. Philipp Grubauer played seven, Francouz played six, and Michael Hutchinson got into four games. This was their downfall in a year where they had a very good chance of competing for the Stanley Cup. Though Hutchinson performed well for being a third goalie thrown into playoff action, the Avalanche just couldn’t overcome the injuries.
As I stated, Francouz missed the entire season last year, and it was reported before the season that he sustained an injury that would keep him out three to four weeks (“Avalanche goalie Pavel Francouz out 3-4 weeks with lower-body injury”, The Athletic, 10/7/21). He has yet to make a return, and I don’t know how much general manager Joe Sakic can trust the health of his young goalie anymore. With the Stanley Cup window open, they can’t waste any years if something were to happen to their goalies again.
Darcy Kuemper was acquired to fill the hole of Grubauer, but he too has had trouble with injuries which has kept him out of the Vezina conversation by year’s end. Kuemper has failed to play in over 30 games for each of the past two seasons, getting into 29 and 27, respectfully. This injury problem could come after him once again in a long season, and the Avalanche’s current backup, Jonas Johansson, won’t cut it just yet.
With the Avalanche lacking a first or second round pick this season, they could offer a prospect in return. For a team like Columbus who I feel isn’t ready to compete just yet, a player who can help the team in the next year or two would sit nicely with them for an upcoming unrestricted free agent. That being said, Colorado has lots to offer. The Blue Jackets wouldn’t be asking for a high-end prospect, but a mid-level player on the high end could be reasonable.
The Avalanche were able to get a first-hand look at a possible future target in their game last night in which it was very smart of Columbus to play Korpisalo in. He played well and would’ve had even better numbers if not for the late flurry to tie the game by Colorado.
Blues Can Provide Binnington With Support
Jordan Binnington has seemed to bounce back nicely for the Blues, which is much-needed. After getting rid of Jake Allen last season, the need for an experienced and solid backup goalie is high in St. Louis. Ville Husso isn’t the guy if the Blues want to be able to give Binnington rest throughout the season and be a go-to option if there’s struggles or injuries. Husso would not be able to step in and be the team’s starter.
Husso is still decently young for a goalie, as he hasn’t hit his prime yet. He could do with another year of development and be a good third goaltender in the Blues’ depth charts. Shutout aside, this season he only has one game played, and last year was a forgettable one for him. He had a 3.21 GAA and .893 SV%, not acceptable for a playoff-caliber team.
Like Colorado, the Blues don’t have their second-round pick for this upcoming draft. But to make the cap work, they could offer a roster player and either a lower draft pick or a prospect. The Blue Jackets would definitely be open to retaining salary, as they have an abundance.
Unless the Blue Jackets are dominant, and believe they have a good chance to compete in the postseason, they would be wise to sell high on Korpisalo for teams desperately in need of goaltending help. Injuries could force another team’s hand that isn’t on this list. But after choosing their future starter in Merzlikins, Korpisalo doesn’t fit in the Blue Jackets’ plans after this season.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with the NHL Stat Corner and trade talks from around the NHL.