The Columbus Blue Jackets continued to take care of offseason business on Wednesday. In the process, they locked up an important part of their future.
The Blue Jackets signed G Daniil Tarasov to a three-year contract extension worth $3.15 million total, an AAV of $1.05 million per season. The contract will see him make $750,000 in the first year, $1.05 million the second year and $1.35 million in the third year. When the contract expires, he will have one RFA season left before becoming a UFA. The deal is also a one-way deal in all three years, meaning he’ll make his salary no matter where he plays.
Here’s GM Jarmo Kekalainen on Tarasov: “Daniil is a big, athletic goaltender who exhibits great poise and calmness in net. We were very impressed with his play last season before he was injured and are excited to see him continue to develop and grow in the years ahead.”
While the Blue Jackets and their fans are waiting on the bigger offseason news (Patrik Laine), we cannot discount the importance of this signing. With Joonas Korpisalo back on a one-year contract, it seems the goaltending depth for 2022-23 is set. Assuming Tarasov is fully recovered and ready for training camp, the Blue Jackets locked up perhaps the biggest goaltending bargain in the league by the time this contract is over.
Tarasov Primed to Be a Big Bargain
Let’s set the scene for you. Before he underwent surgery to repair his injured right hip, Tarasov was called up to the NHL for the first time and appeared in four games. Despite his 0-2-0 record, he played very well. He stopped 104 of 111 shots faced for a .937 save percentage. He showed flashes of why the Blue Jackets are so high on him.
Tarasov also appeared in 11 games for the Cleveland Monsters last season, finishing with a 5-3-3 record and an .893 save percentage. This included a stretch of five consecutive wins where he posted a .920 save percentage.
The situation now sets up perfectly for Tarasov. One look at his salary in each of the three seasons sets the scene. He is expected to be the number-one goaltender in Cleveland to start the 2022-23 season. This will give him a chance to get back into game action coming off hip surgery while shaking the rust off from his time off in recovery. In the event of injury, Tarasov is likely the first callup to the Blue Jackets.
With Korpisalo on a one-year deal, the final two years seem to indicate that Tarasov is in line to be the full-time backup starting in 2023-24. If he continues on the pace he started on before his injury, his $1.05 million and $1.35 million salary will look like the biggest bargain in the NHL.
This is a tidy piece of work by Josh Flynn and management to get Tarasov locked in for three years at this cap hit. He has the chance to play a lot in those final two years. For an athletic goalie already standing at 6-foot-5, not only could he play a lot, he could win a lot too. Many folks in the hockey world believe his upside is higher than that of current starter Elvis Merzlikins.
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The thing that isn’t getting enough attention is the job management is doing with the cap. On top of Tarasov’s friendly deal, they just locked up Jack Roslovic for two years at a friendly $4 million AAV. They’ve locked in important pieces while maintaining cap flexibility. While they have other business to attend to, this sets them up to potentially make a bigger splash via trade or free agency should the opportunity present itself. They still have over $21 million in cap space available.
One other way to look at the situation is the total cap hit spent on the goaltending upcoming. Merzlikins’ and Korpisalo’s combined cap hit in 2022-23 is set to be $6.7 million. Merzlikins’ and Tarasov’s combined cap hit in the two seasons after that is set to be slightly less at $6.45 million. Consider Jordan Binnington makes $6 million alone, Matt Murray makes $6.25 million, John Gibson makes $6.4 million and two goalies in Sergei Bobrovsky and Carey Price are at or over $10 million, you see the cost control implemented by the Blue Jackets.
In conclusion, Tarasov’s contract is the latest example of good work by Blue Jackets’ management to find a team friendly deal for a high-upside player. The player gets a raise in each year as he continues to develop into a bigger role while the team can focus on addressing other areas while maintaining maximum flexibility.
Tarasov can now focus on becoming a star in the AHL, something he’s primed to do this season assuming no setbacks in recovery. It won’t be long before he becomes a household name in NHL circles. When he gets there full time, folks will see why he’s one of the biggest goalie bargains in the league.
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.