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NHL Notebook: Blue Jackets to find goaltender Elvis Merzlikins ‘new scenario,’ Blackhawks’ Seth Jones nearing return, as Nick Foligno inks two-year extension

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Photo credit:Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
1 month ago
Elvis will leave the building.
Nearly two and a half years after inking a five-year extension with the Columbus Blue Jackets, the club is set to find a new home for goaltender Elvis Merzlikins.
It comes on the back of a multitude of things, among them a good goalie prospect pool, and frustration from both sides about how the last number of years have gone.
Word about what will almost surely be a future trade came from Merzlikins himself, speaking Friday to reporters two weeks after he had his last start.
“I just want to be treated as a No. 1,” Merzlikins said. “I believe I am a No. 1. It didn’t [get] to that point that I’m requesting; it went to the point that both sides agreed.
“Now, I didn’t speak to anybody; obviously, that’s not on me. That’s why I’m paying my agent,” Merzlikins continued. “Both sides agreed. Now, what’s going to happen, I have no idea. Again, if I get to play, I play. I’m going to give my best because the boys deserve giving the best. This is my family.
“I grew up here in the NHL, my career. All these players, to me, they’re my brothers. I have great memories with them together. But again, this is business and it’s not what I’m handling. I want to play. I’m not going to be a No. 3, I can assure you that.”
Appearing in 23 games this year, Merzlikins has posted a 7-8-6 record, .907 save percentage and 3.25 GAA. The 29-year-old has three years left on a deal paying him $5.4-million.
In early December, I opined that Merzlikins might be a strong option for the Oilers in the crease.

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Blackhawks extend Foligno

The Chicago Blackhawks have extended winger Nick Foligno for two more years, giving him a deal that will see him earn $4.5-million a year.
Foligno entered the season on a one-year, $4-million deal with the team, and has been looked to as a veteran leader for the young squad. In a game last week against the New Jersey Devils, one where their young star Connor Bedard broke his jaw on a heavy hit from Brendan Smith, it didn’t take long for Foligno to drop the mitts with Smith in a move of retribution. He joined the Hawks in a trade ahead of free agency, where Chicago acquired him and Taylor Hall from the Boston Bruins for prospects Ian Mitchell and Alex Regula.
This year, Foligno has flashed some more offence, likely in part due to the fact his ice time has been bumped up. With eight goals and 17 points in 39 games, Foligno has averaged 17 minutes and 32 seconds of ice time a night, well up from the 12:25 he averaged in his two years with Boston.

Jones nearing return

The Blackhawks, battered, bruised and banged up with an almost hard-to-believe $33.85-million on the injured reserve, might be getting a bit healthier, sooner rather than later.
That’s in thanks to defenceman Seth Jones nearing a return from injury. The rearguard has missed the last month with a shoulder injury suffered on Dec. 10, after scoring 11 assists in his first 27 games.
Jones is reportedly set to return Saturday night, when the Blackhawks take on the Dallas Stars.
Jones’ arrival came as the Hawks took one last run at a Stanley Cup with others that included Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome, Jonathan Toews and Brandon Hagel, the last of whom dealt to the Tampa Bay Lightning in that 2021-22 season.
With a season last year that left Chicago with the second-worst record in the league, and another this year trending for an equally bad, if not worse season, one has to wonder if Jones is long for the slow rebuild the Blackhawks are undergoing. The issue? Jones’ contract carries a $9.5-million cap hit, and has a stunning seven-years left.
That would be one heckuva deal to be able to move, especially to any team in serious contention in the salary cap world.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@thenationnetwork.com.

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