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Blue Jackets not likely to sign Pelletier, Leblanc; plus Merzlikins update

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

With the June 1 deadline to ink unsigned prospects looming, the Blue Jackets appear set on their direction.

It's highly unlikely that either forward Julien Pelletier (fourth round) or defenseman Olivier Leblanc (seventh round), both taken in the 2014 NHL Draft, will be signed by the team. As a result, they will re-enter the draft pool and be available for selection at next month’s draft in Buffalo.

Here’s how it breaks down: NHL teams have until the second June 1 after a player is drafted out of North American junior hockey to get them under contract. If the player is drafted out of Europe, they have until the fourth June 1 following his draft unless the player is 20 years of age or older, in which case it’s the second June 1.

With respect to Latvian goaltending prospect Elvis Merzlikins, who was drafted No. 76 overall in 2014, he was 20 years old when drafted and is under contract to a team in a league (Swiss League) that does NOT have a transfer agreement with the NHL.

Earlier this year, the Blue Jackets exercised their option to deem Merzlikins a “defected player,” meaning they keep him on their reserve list and retain his rights indefinitely.

Merzlikins appeared in 46 games with HC Lugano this season and finished with an impressive .922 save percentage, a number that increased to .937 in 15 playoff games. He also saw time in the Swiss Cup, the Spengler Cup and the World Hockey Championship.

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