Could New Jersey Devils Trade for Elvis Merzlikins?

29-year-old Elvis Merzlikins has not played in 2024 despite being fully healthy. We know he's available. Could the New Jersey Devils make him their answer in net?

Columbus Blue Jackets v St Louis Blues
Columbus Blue Jackets v St Louis Blues / Dilip Vishwanat/GettyImages

At this point, the New Jersey Devils should be considering just about anything in the way of immediate goaltending help for the team. Vitek Vanecek is officially the worst-performing goalie in the NHL, and the Devils' playoff hopes have taken a massive hit as a result of that. This week, New Jersey may have gotten a new trade option on their radar.

The Columbus Blue Jackets are still not a good team and, by extension, sit in the basement of the Metropolitan Division once again. Veteran goaltender Elvis Merzlikins has been relegated to reserve duty as the team's No. 3 goaltender and has not played since Dec. 29.

“It is an organizational decision. It’s something that I can’t control. I was a stable No. 1. I just jumped straight to No. 3. I did not like that, obviously. I don’t think anybody would like that. I am healthy," Merzlikins said. "I am good to go. I can play. There’s nothing I can do about it. The only thing I can do is practice the minutes that I can practice as the third goalie and support my teammates as much as I can, do my hard work in the gym, and just wait until it can happen.”

“I’ve told you many times, I’m not a backup, and I won’t be backup,” Merzlikins added. “I believe in myself. You can call me arrogant. I’m not arrogant, I’m just confident. I know I’m not No. 2 or 3 and I won’t be it.” The Latvian also stressed that he hasn't requested a trade out of Columbus, but are there other options?

If you're the Devils, you have to be licking your chops, at least a little bit. Right? Merzlikins will turn 30 in April and is signed for three more years at a $5.4 million cap hit. This makes his cap hit lower than other options linked to the Devils, particularly John Gibson and Jacob Markstrom. Merzlikins is also younger than those two, and with his public comments this week, the Blue Jackets have very little leverage in comparison.

Indeed, Merzlikins was the worst goaltender in hockey last year, per Moneypuck, with a -25.9 goals saved above expected. Aside from that, the 29-year-old has always been solid. The decrease in his numbers over the last three years coincides with the Blue Jackets getting exponentially worse defensively and as a team. To be clear, there are no risk-free options for the Devils in today's goalie market.

Merzlikins has nicely rebounded from a catastrophic 2022-23 season and gets the benefit of the doubt for playing on a terrible team. As the trade deadline draws nearer, this is a situation worth monitoring for the Devils.