Welcome back to Blue Jackets News & Rumors. We have a lot to catch up on so let’s dive right in. We’re talking goalies, injuries, trade rumors and much more.
Daniil Tarasov’s Memorable NHL Debut
Imagine for a second that this was your day. You wake up like normal in the same place you’ve been for some period of time. Next thing you know, you get a phone call that not only will you be called up to the NHL, you might be starting. Then add that you’ve never played in a regular season NHL game. This scenario played out exactly this past Thursday for G Danill Tarasov.
Because of illnesses to both Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo, Tarasov was expected to start. However coach Brad Larsen wouldn’t rule Merzlikins out completely until game time. When Tarasov came onto the ice for his solo lap, it was official. The Blue Jackets’ best goaltending prospect was set to make his NHL debut.
When the dust finally settled, Tarasov didn’t get the win. But he was outstanding.
The Stars won the game 3-2 thanks to a pair of quick goals near the end of the second period. But it was Tarasov who shined throughout. After giving up an early goal to Jason Robertson, Tarasov settled in nicely and didn’t look out of place. He finished the night with 34 saves on 37 shots against one of the hottest teams in the NHL.
Then to top things off, Tarasov spoke postgame and mostly in English. He called the whole experience a “dream come true” and thanked the guys in front of him.
Tarasov was originally an emergency recall. However the Blue Jackets placed Korpisalo on injured reserve Friday retro to Dec 1 due to the illness he’s been battling. This means Tarasov will continue to stay with the Blue Jackets until Korpisalo is ready to go.
Assuming Merzlikins is well enough to play, he is expected to be your starter for the foreseeable. The one question will be the upcoming back-to-back with the Capitals and Sharks starting Saturday. Perhaps Tarasov gets the Sharks in that scenario. But there’s no other back-to-backs until after Christmas. We’ll see how Larsen elects to handle this in the coming days.
Meanwhile, Tarasov got his NHL debut out of the way and showed very well. The Blue Jackets’ goaltending appears to be in capable hands for a long time.
Korpisalo Chatter Picking Up
The seemingly never-ending Korpisalo “sweepstakes” once again picked up steam this past week. According to Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff, teams have had conversations with the Blue Jackets about Korpisalo within the last couple of weeks.
Then according to ESPN’s Emily Kaplan, the expectation is that Korpisalo will be traded by the deadline. Everything is falling in line with what’s been expected for some time now.
The questions we need to consider though are two-fold. What possible destinations make sense here? And what could the Blue Jackets get in a deal should they elect to pull the trigger?
Let’s look at destinations first. The Sabres have long been in the market for a goalie. But they just acquired Malcolm Subban from the Blackhawks in exchange for future considerations. Given where the Sabres are at, I don’t see this making sense anymore. Subban deserves a chance and they have Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen eventually coming. The Sabres likely don’t acquire a goalie who is a pending UFA for anything meaningful.
We can’t have this conversation without considering the Edmonton Oilers. With Mike Smith’s injury, they are running with Mikko Koskinen and Stuart Skinner. You know they’re asking do they need to address this. The issue here is a couple of things. First there will be competition. If the Blackhawks fall out, do the Oilers inquire about Marc-Andre Fleury? That just makes too much sense. But then second, what do other teams think of Korpisalo at this point?
Korpisalo has struggled going back to the beginning of last season. But there’s plenty out there too showing what he’s capable of. Perhaps on a good team with an established defense, Korpisalo can regain his form from the Toronto bubble where he frustrated two of the best offensive teams in hockey in the Maple Leafs and Lightning.
There are really only a couple of other teams that make some sense given their individual situations. Arizona immediately comes to mind. He’d instantly become their starter and it wouldn’t take too much to sign him to a new deal. What about Montreal especially given the Carey Price situation? Are they at least looking at options? With Jeff Gorton now in town, I expect some patience on their side before they do anything too drastic.
Ottawa is another team who I could see at least inquire. With Matt Murray waived, their depth isn’t exactly loaded. Korpisalo could go in and immediately be their number-one. Really that seems to be about it for obvious teams. The Sharks have James Reimer and Adin Hill signed for next season already. Perhaps letting the market develop some more up to the deadline will work in the Blue Jackets’ favor.
As for the price, who’s willing to give up a first-round pick? I expect teams would hesitate at that given Korpisalo’s performance and numbers of late. Still, he could be one of those sought after players who would give an acquiring team a boost as they approach the playoffs. Does Colorado perhaps look at him as someone who could jump in for Darcy Kuemper in the event of injury?
Here’s what we know. There have been recent conversations. Those conversations will pick up as we inch closer to March. Both he and the Blue Jackets need his best when he starts. He’s playing for his future and the Blue Jackets would want maximum value in any deal. Let’s see how much he starts and let’s see if he can find himself over these next couple of months.
Trade Chatter Is Picking Up
Trade chatter league-wide is starting to pick up as teams are starting to formulate their plans for both the deadline and beyond. With that, it’s a good time to check in on the Blue Jackets’ roster to see who other teams might be interested in.
The big one to start with is Max Domi. Although he’s had some bad luck with injuries and dealing with Covid to start this season, he’s been good this season. He’s showing off his speed and his skill is back on the forefront. He’s now playing like the player the Blue Jackets expected when they dealt Josh Anderson to Montreal.
But Domi is a pending UFA coming off a deal where his cap hit is $5.3 million. Would the Blue Jackets be willing to bring him back at a possibly higher number? Recall that the Blue Jackets exposed him to Seattle in the expansion draft. The Kraken didn’t take him. Teams would very much covet a fast, skilled forward to boost their playoff depth.
Also remember that the Blue Jackets have players on the way including Kent Johnson and Kirill Marchenko. So lineup spots will be at a premium. The conditions seem right for trade here. But there’s still plenty of time to decide this.
The other player we need to discuss is Patrik Laine. He’s on IR as we write this but should be back within a week or two depending on his rehab. When he’s been in, he’s been noticeable and certainly better than last season. But like last season, a decision will have to be made.
Is this player a good fit for the long-term plans of the Blue Jackets? Is the team willing to dish out a longer contract would be expected to come in at over $8 million per? Both arguments can be made here.
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On one hand, Laine has the ability to take over a game on his own. Players like this don’t come around often. His ability to score 40 in any given season should make this an easy decision. But on the other hand, teams will certainly call about him given that he’s an RFA and there is some question about how the Blue Jackets see this situation. If they get a huge package back in a deal including top prospects and first-round picks, they have to at least think about it.
Still, as of this writing, I don’t get any sense that the Blue Jackets will trade Laine. I think they’ll do what they can to sign him to a multi-year extension. He’s having fun again and is enjoying life in Columbus. And let’s remember that he’s only 23.
Things can change in one phone call, but for now, just know that teams will call about Laine’s availability as due diligence. But it would be a shock if he goes anywhere before the end of this season.
- Emil Bemstrom was activated from IR and sent to the Cleveland Monsters. We’ll now see how long it takes for him to get back to the Blue Jackets. It could be some time. He now waits his turn again.
- The Blue Jackets play in Washington Saturday night hoping to avoid a fourth-straight loss. This is a huge stretch of games given the standings. Nothing easy is coming after this weekend. They have seven of nine on the road including Saturday’s game against the Capitals. They need to start winning or else this season might start slipping away from them.
- Boone Jenner scored his 11th goal of the season Thursday in Dallas. He’s on pace for 42 goals. How’s that for a first-time captain and someone asked to play the role of top-line center?
- We end this week wishing nothing but the best to Dallas Stars’ reporter Mike Heika. He tweeted that he suffered a stroke and will be away for a while. You can always tell when someone is respected based on what others say about them. Stars’ coach Rick Bowness opened his postgame presser Thursday night by acknowledging an empty chair that Heika normally sits in and gave him his well wishes. That’s first-class stuff from a very classy coach in Bowness. We wish nothing but the best in recovery for Heika and can’t wait to see him around the rink again.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.