Blue Jackets Blasts: Korpisalo Stays, Kukan Goes & More

Welcome back to Columbus Blue Jackets’ Blasts. The second round of the NHL Playoffs are in full swing. We are also just two weeks away from the testing day at the NHL Combine. Within that, the Blue Jackets are making news.

Morning Skate newsletter Click To Subscribe

A familiar friend is staying to the surprise of some. What does this mean short and long-term? Let’s blast off.

Korpisalo Signs Extension

The Blue Jackets have decided to run it back in net. On Friday, the team announced a one-year extension for Joonas Korpisalo. That in and of itself is an interesting piece for news for a couple of reasons.

First, it gives Korpisalo a chance to rebound in a place he loves and is familiar with. The reported AAV is $1.3 million. From a cap perspective, that is a good gamble to take on someone who was recently an NHL All-Star.

For Koprisalo, last season started with poor performance. And then injuries came into play. His season ultimately ended after he had surgery to repair his hip. He is expected to be ready for training camp.

Joonas Korpisalo Columbus Blue Jackets
Joonas Korpisalo, Columbus Blue Jackets (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Second and more interestingly, the Blue Jackets duo in net appears to be Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins. There was question last season if this was going to work since both were considered number-one goalies coming into the season. Both struggled for different reasons. Now the team is running it back.

The Korpisalo signing certainly has a domino effect. Merzlikins is presumably still the Blue Jackets’ number-one goalie. But if he struggles again, which is not out of the question, Korpisalo will have more than ample opportunity to show that last year was a blip. Many thought he would be traded. But given performance and then ultimately injury, he stayed and now he’s back.

The Korpisalo signing has an effect on the depth chart. There was a thought that Daniil Tarasov was going to compete for the number-two role behind Merzlikins. With Korpisalo back, that doesn’t appear to be the case for now.

Let’s reset Tarasov’s situation. In February, he had hip surgery. Assuming no setbacks in recovery, he is expected to be ready for training camp. That would put him on track to be the starter in Cleveland come October. But, he needs a new contract first.

Tarasov is an RFA. Normally you wouldn’t stop and worry about that since he’s under team control. However this one is a little different. It will be interesting to see how quickly the Blue Jackets can get a deal done. Why is timing important? That’s because of the unknown ramifications of the current situation in Russia.

The great unknown is what will be going on a few months from now. Will there be any government imposed changes to worry about such as obtaining a visa? We don’t know.

You Might Also Like

As of this writing, the assumption is a deal will be done and business will go on as usual. But until pen is put to paper and all necessary paperwork is signed, sealed and delivered, it will be a question. Stay tuned on this one.

No matter what happens down the line this offseason, the one thing you can almost take to the bank is that the Blue Jackets will likely draft a goalie this July in Montreal. It’s customary to draft one anyway. But given recent events, the team will need to bolster its depth. This draft does present them with options in that regard.

The depth chart for now seems to be:

  • Merzlikins
  • Korpisalo
  • Tarasov (once signed)
  • Jet Greaves

Jean-Francois Berube is a UFA. Assuming this top-four stays in tact, it points to Berube finding a new team for next season.

In all, Korpisalo’s signing seems to set the Blue Jackets up in net for 2022-23. It also points to an important question with Tarasov. We’ll ultimately see where that goes.

Kukan Heading to Switzerland

A report came out where Blue Jackets’ defenseman Dean Kukan said he will not be returning to the NHL but will instead play in Switzerland in 2022-23.

This certainly comes as no surprise from a Blue Jackets’ perspective. The blue line was crowded and it seemed that Kukan would be squeezed out given his UFA status and age. He wasn’t able to consistently stay in the lineup although he had some moments.

Perhaps Kukan’s biggest moment was the goal he scored in Boston in the 2019 playoffs. It was a huge goal at the time as it tied the game late in the third period. It was his first ever playoff goal to boot.

In all, Kukan finished his Blue Jackets’ career playing in 153 games scoring five goals and 30 points. Three of his five goals came this past season.

Given the emergence of Andrew Peeke and Nick Blankenburg plus other prospects such as Jake Christiansen pushing for more playing time, the end seemed inevitable with Kukan. The only question remaining is what other changes will be made on defense? The goalies are coming back and management said they must do a better job preventing goals. So that leaves some blue line changes to come.

Related: Blue Jackets Enter Offseason With Higher Expectations

Side Dishes

Let’s do a quick check-in of how the Blue Jackets are faring in the World Championships.

  • Kent Johnson entered Saturday with two goals and four points in four games played for Team Canada.
  • Alex Texier has two goals and an assist in five games played for France. He looks refreshed which is good news for the Blue Jackets.
  • Emil Bemstrom has a goal and two assists in his five games played with Team Sweden.
  • Andrew Peeke has three assists in five games including one on Saturday morning in Team USA’s OT win over Sweden.
  • Cole Sillnger entered Saturday with two goals in his four games played.
  • Elvis Merzlikins has a 1-3 record in four games played with a 3.92 GAA and .874 save percentage.
  • Nick Blankenburg hasn’t recorded a point in four appearances for Team USA.
  • The aforementioned Kukan also hasn’t recorded a point in four appearances for Team Switzerland.

All-in-all, it’s been a good showing for the Blue Jackets in Finland to date. It reinforces the notion that their future is bright.