Blue Jackets Should Follow Kings’ Example and Waive Merzlikins

The Columbus Blue Jackets have been massively disappointed by their goaltending as a whole this season, but especially by Elvis Merzlikins. This isn’t just a problem in Columbus, though; goaltending around the league has taken a massive hit and many top names are struggling. Jacob Markstrom has taken a major step back in Calgary and even Igor Shesterkin has had his moments despite having a good season overall. The most similar comparable for Merzlikins though would be Cal Petersen of the Los Angeles Kings.

How the Kings Handled Petersen

Petersen has been seen as the goalie of the future in Los Angeles for nearly half a decade. He has struggled since the start of the 2021-22 season, almost immediately after signing his contract extension that kicked in this season. That performance has continued into the current season, with his numbers being the worst of his career to date. Eventually, the 9-8 overtime loss to the Seattle Kraken at the end of November was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The next day on Nov. 30, he was placed on waivers in a surprising turn of events. He cleared waivers and they assigned him to the Ontario Reign of the American Hockey League (AHL).

Cal Petersen Los Angeles Kings
Cal Petersen, Los Angeles Kings (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Since being assigned to the AHL, Petersen has played four games and seemingly has found his confidence again fairly quickly. He has allowed a total of eight goals on 132 shots during that stint, which is a save percentage of .939 and a goals-against average of 2.01. Although it has been a small sample size, this appears to be having the exact outcome that the Kings would’ve hoped for. It’s impossible to say if this increase in performance will continue, especially when he comes back to the NHL, but it certainly hasn’t hurt anything.

Why the Blue Jackets Should Follow Suit

Merzlikins is playing the worst hockey of his career, and it’s time to do something drastic to try to turn him around. Considering the fact that Petersen cleared waivers with a shorter contract with a slightly lower average annual value, it’s unlikely that anyone would place a claim on him. The only potential risk would be the Buffalo Sabres, but they had a less-than-ideal history with Petersen, so they would likely never place a claim on him. He was originally picked by the Sabres in the 2013 Draft and never signed, opting to become an unrestricted free agent and sign with the Kings. As a result, they would be the one team who would be a legitimate threat to claim Merzlikins, but even then it’s unlikely considering they have their goaltender of the future in Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen.

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The worst-case scenario would be the Blue Jackets lose Merzlikins on waivers, which isn’t much of a risk. Even if it were to happen, there’s always a chance that it is a blessing in disguise in the long run for the organization as it would open up a roster spot for someone like Daniil Tarasov to get more experience at the NHL level and if Merzlikins didn’t bounce back, it would stop them from being stuck with his contract in the future. The best-case and the most likely scenario would be he clears waivers and is assigned to the Cleveland Monsters where he finds his confidence and becomes the player we’ve seen in the past.

Related: Blue Jackets Should Not Trade for Canucks’ Horvat

Everyone in Columbus wants to see Merzlikins succeed after all of the difficult moments, both personally and professionally, that he has experienced over the last few seasons. While it may not be a popular move and Merzlikins himself may not like it, trying to get him some playing time in the AHL is the right thing to do in order to get his career back on track.

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