Blue Jackets’ Elvis Merzlikins signs two-year contract extension, calls Columbus ‘home’
“I’m really excited and I’m really happy because I like everything here. I like the city, I really love my teammates and I like the organization, especially the fans,” Merzlikins said on a call with reporters Thursday evening. “I felt when I came here in the start of the season I felt like I’m already home. I didn’t have the best start of my NHL career, maybe, but still the fans, they didn’t abandon me. They stayed with me, they took me with open arms and even if there was a bad game they were always with me and even when we won good games they were always with me. So I think it’s a perfect club and perfect city to be here and perfect people around.”“We’ve believed for several years that Elvis Merzlikins was the best goaltender outside the NHL while he was playing in Switzerland and this year he has shown that he has the ability and drive to be a very good goaltender in this league,” Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said in the team’s press release. “He is quick, athletic and driven to succeed and we are excited to see what the future holds for Elvis and our hockey club.” 📝 The Blue Jackets have signed goalie Elvis Merzlikins to a two-year contract extension. #CBJ | @Merzly30 https://t.co/EbRwvQzUjO— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) April 23, 2020The 26-year-old Merzlikins played for Swiss team HC Lugano from 2011-2019, winning the Jacques Plante Trophy for the best goalie in Switzerland twice (2016, 2018). He was selected by Columbus in the third round of the 2012 draft before finally making his NHL debut this season.In his first year in the league, Merzlikins started 31 games, posting a 13-9-8 record. He led all rookie netminders in GAA (2.35) and shutouts (five) and led the entire NHL in GAA between Dec. 31 and the pause in the season on March 12. The netminder also posted a .923 save percentage, which put him sixth among NHL goalies with a minimum of 20 games. “I think it’s going to be weird and hard maybe because the last time when professional players play like this was when you were kids … when it was just your mom and your pops who were looking at your games,” Merzlikins said when asked about the possibility of finishing the season without fans. “It’s going to be weird I think, maybe be like a practice. I have no idea because I never had this experience. “For me personally, yeah, everybody knows that I’m trying to steal the energy from the fans, from atmosphere and from everything. I’m not going to have anybody who I can steal that energy. It’s going to be different but we want to play hockey and we are really missing the hockey so, maybe we are going to be so happy to play that hockey game that we’re not going to realize there are no fans.”The news of his extension comes less than a week after the Blue Jackets’ starter, Joonas Korpisalo, put pen to paper on a two-year extension of his own. Korpisalo had the best season of his NHL career this year, winning 19 of the 37 games he played and named to his first All-Star game. He suffered a knee injury earlier this year that kept him out for almost two months, during which time Merzlikins deputized in goal. With both of their top netminders locked up for the near future, the Blue Jackets have found stability at the position despite the departure of Sergei Bobrovsky last offseason. Merzlikins and Korpisalo are also both still a few years away from the age of 30, so we could be seeing the two battle it out for the starting job for years to come. Just days after signing their starting goalie to a contract extension, the Columbus Blue Jackets have done the same with their second-stringer. The team announced on Thursday that they agreed to terms on a two-year contract extension with rookie Elvis Merzlikins. The Riga, Latvia native was a standout performer in his first season and was recently ranked the No. 1 rookie aged 25 or older by NHL.com.