National Hockey League

The Columbus Blue Jackets officially announced that they have signed their 2014 third-round pick to a one-year entry level contract.

Elvis Merzlikins
Robert Hradil / RvS.Media

"Elvis Merzlikins is a big, athletic goaltender who has performed at a very high level in the Swiss League with Lugano and is ready to take the next step in his career," the Blue Jackets' GM Jarmo Kekalainen is cited. "We think he is the best goaltender outside of the NHL right now and are excited about his future with our organization."

With Merzlikins being signed to this standard entry-level contract now, he will become a restricted free agent on July 1 this year, which means that the Blue Jackets are forced to negotiate a follow-up deal with the goaltender. That also means that Merzlikins will not be allowed to play with the Blue Jackets' AHL affiliate in Cleveland this season, since he was not on CBJ's AHL "clear" list as of February 25, the NHL trade deadline.

According to a report from Aaron Portzline (The Athletic), Merzlikins leveraged his success with HC Lugano to force the Blue Jackets' hand and avoid signing a tryout agreement with AHL's Cleveland Monsters, which would have pushed his entry-level deal (two-way) to the 2019-20 season. Instead, Merzlikins will burn his entry-level status for the rest of this season, so that he can then sign a one-way NHL deal to begin next season. Negotiations towards this follow-up contract have already begun, the same source reports.

The 24-year-old Latvian is a homegrown talent of HC Lugano. He made his debut in Switzerland's highest league in the 2013-14 season. In this regular season, he suited up in 43 games and posted a save percentage of 92.07% and a goals against average of 2.44.

Entry-level contracts

If you want to know more about entry-level contracts in the NHL, you can read about it here.

( 20 March 2019 | rlu )

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