The Columbus Blue Jackets are losing Sergei Bobrovsky in free agency. That much has been known since last summer, confirmed just days after the season ending when he listed his downtown condo on the market. The Blue Jackets had already signed future netminder Elvis Merzlikins and have Joonas Korpisalo as a restricted free agent.
The team has stated that they are comfortable with the duo as a goaltending tandem next season. But with such little experience (Korpisalo has started 81 NHL games, Merzlikins has started zero), the team could still look to sign a goaltender for depth and perhaps move Korpisalo.
If the team does that, who could they target? Let’s take a look.
2018-19 stats: 15-18-6, 3 shutouts, 3.36 GAA, .891 SV%
Kinkaid was brought in for a future fifth round pick at the trade deadline as injury insurance for Sergei Bobrovsky and Joonas Korpisalo. Kinkaid only dressed twice, never played in a game, and is an unrestricted free agent this summer.
If the team wants to move Joonas Korpisalo for assets, they could bring Kinkaid back as a steadying presence behind Merzlikins who could take over the net for a time if he struggles as well as teach him the ins and outs of being a pro in the NHL. Plus, Kinkaid is already familiar with the locker room.
2018-19 stats: 20-11-2, 2 shutouts, 2.58 GAA, .912 SV%
Another veteran familiar with the locker room, Curtis McElhinney had a great season for the Carolina Hurricanes as the Metro rivals finally broke their playoff drought. He was part of an effective platoon in Raleigh last season and could do the same in Columbus.
Like Kinkaid, McElhinney has experience being in the Blue Jackets locker room and could mentor Elvis Merzlikins as he transitions to the NHL.
2018-19 stats: 23-16-2, 2 shutouts, 2.72 GAA, .898 SV%
Mike Smith is on the downside of his career, and he is volatile goaltender, but his talent is undeniable. For a temporary stopgap behind Merzlikins, Smith could fill in. However, it is not clear that he would want to accept that role, especially after he started all five of Calgary’s playoff games this past season (going 1-4 with a 3.20 GAA).
Mike Smith, if willing to take a backseat, could be useful, but less so than the two goalies mentioned above.
2018-19 stats: 16-12-4, 0 shutouts, 3.67 GAA, .897 SV%
Ward could still be useful, and has played the backup role for the last few years in Chicago. Mentoring another young phenom could be a great closing chapter to Ward’s career, as he won the Cup early in his NHL career.
Do not expect the Jackets to sign another netminder this summer unless Jarmo shocks fans and moves Joonas Korpisalo for assets.
If he does that, however, who would you like to see?