The St. Louis Blues have a difficult situation to wrestle with before the deadline. Their best goaltender is inarguably Ville Husso, who made 43 saves on 45 shots to keep the Blues in a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night and steal the team a point. But he is also an unrestricted free agent (UFA) after the season, and he will likely want a major extension before next season. The Blues signed Jordan Binnington to a six-year, $36 million contract last season, and despite surprising reports that general manager Doug Armstrong is shopping him to teams, he is likely in the fold long term.
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Admittedly, all signs point to Husso staying with the Blues, as keeping him is probably their best shot to make a playoff run. But the team shouldn’t be too quick to close the door on a trade. Keeping both Husso and Binnington past this season will be a costly burden on an already strained salary cap picture.
And there are three teams in particular who could be desperate for goaltending at the deadline. Given a limited goalie market (Marc-Andre Fleury is the only other goalie of note rumored to be available, and even that picture is clouded), the Blues could strike while the iron is hot, exploit a poor goalie market, and make a windfall by trading Husso to one of these three NHL destinations.
The Edmonton Oilers Are Big on Husso
The Edmonton Oilers are arguably the team who first made a potential Husso trade a hot-button issue in St. Louis. Several months ago, Elliotte Friedman reported that they viewed him as their preferred young goalie to acquire, should the possibility arise. Whether the Oilers will make a move in net before the deadline remains to be seen, but Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen are not good enough, and they are now back in the thick of the playoff race.
It’s also all but certain that Fleury won’t be willing to waive his no-trade clause to move to a brutal climate like Edmonton, even for the spring. Otherwise, a deal might already have been made. If Edmonton is indeed as high on Husso as Friedman reports, they might be willing to surrender a first-round pick for him, particularly if Armstrong allows them to negotiate an extension before the trade. Additionally, the Oilers have two high-level young defenders the Blues could target. Evan Bouchard is likely off-limits, but Philip Broberg might be available and would help fill a need on left-side defense.
The Toronto Maple Leafs Have a Sudden Goalie Need
A few months ago, no one would think that the Toronto Maple Leafs might be shopping for a goalie at the trade deadline. Jack Campbell was an All-Star and Vezina Trophy candidate, and Petr Mrázek made for a perfectly capable (if pricey) backup option. But things change pretty quickly in net in the NHL. Campbell fell off and then got hurt, and Mrázek has been terrible. And despite the recent strong performance from Erik Källgren, general manager Kyle Dubas probably can’t justify going into the playoff run with a goalie with two starts under his belt as his starter.
Vegas Golden Knights Suddenly Without Lehner
As the saying goes, “life comes at you pretty fast.” When Vegas Golden Knights’ general manager Kelly McCrimmon unceremoniously dumped Fleury, a franchise legend, on the Chicago Blackhawks, then categorically denied rumors that he might be interested in a reunion, he probably wasn’t thinking that his team would be in crisis as the trade deadline approached and that his starting netminder Robin Lehner would be out with a significant injury. Now, McCrimmon would probably love to have Fleury back if old wounds could be healed. But that ship might have sailed, and that could leave one very desperate GM trying to find help in net before the deadline.
The Golden Knights do not have a first-round pick for next season, and they do not have a wealth of great prospects, either (although Daniil Chayka and Lukas Cormier would be intriguing additions to the Blues’ pipeline). What they do have is a tendency to make major splashes in the trade market, and cutthroat desperation to win a Stanley Cup. Those can be great assets, to be sure, but they can also be dangerous weapons for the general manager savvy enough to use them against you. Armstrong has certainly shown that ability in the past. If the Golden Knights are desperate enough, they could put together a package of picks or trade a roster defenseman that forces the Blues’ hand and sends Husso to the desert.
Husso Stays Put… Probably…
The NHL trade deadline is unpredictable, but if oddsmakers created odds for this kind of thing (and they very well might), Husso staying in St. Louis through Monday would be the heavy betting favorite. But Armstrong has never hesitated to make surprising moves to set his team up for long-term success in the past, including the deadline trades of Kevin Shattenkirk and Paul Stastny in back-to-back years that set the Blues up to win the Stanley Cup. It’s not highly probable, but with a trio of desperate teams that might be a goalie away from a deep Cup run themselves, don’t rule anything out. It’s going to be a fascinating few days.
Stephen Ground is a veteran of over three years at THW, focusing on the St. Louis Blues, NHL goaltending, and the annual World Junior Championship. He is the co-host of the Two Guys One Cup Podcast, a hockey podcast focused on the Blues.