Oilers Need to Be Very Leery of Potential Husso Signing

Heading into the 2021-22 campaign, many questioned the Edmonton Oilers goaltending duo of Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith, and with less than a month left on the schedule, those questions remain. In his defence, Koskinen has played well enough for his team to have success, proven by his stellar 25-10-3 record. His 3.10 goals-against average (GAA) along with his .902 save percentage (SV%) however, leave plenty to be desired.

Related: Oilers Need to Do More Than “Get It Done” On a Nightly Basis

As for Smith, giving a two-year extension this offseason to a goalie who was 39 years old at the time seemed like a bad idea, and has proven to be just that. He has played far below an NHL level all season, as evidenced by his 3.49 GAA and .894 SV% through 20 games.

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Due to the big-time struggles of Smith, many Oilers fans have been calling for management to recall Stuart Skinner from the Bakersfield Condors, but that is unlikely to happen as Ken Holland seems inexplicably confident in his current duo. Regardless of what happens for the remainder of the 2021-22 season, it seems very likely that neither Koskinen nor Smith will be on this roster next season, meaning Holland will need to find a new goaltender to pair up with Skinner. One that many have been discussing as a potential option as of late is Ville Husso of the St. Louis Blues.

Husso Having Outstanding 2021-22 Season

Husso, who is in his second season as an NHLer, is getting plenty of hype as of late, as he appears to be taking over the number one spot for the Blues. He has been superb this season, recording a 2.45 GAA along with a .922 SV% through 32 games. Those numbers are far superior to his goaltending partner in Jordan Binnington who has struggled immensely with a 3.25 GAA and a .899 SV% on the season.

Ville Husso St. Louis Blues
Ville Husso, St. Louis Blues (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Given how well Husso has played for them in 2021-22, the Blues would love for nothing more than to keep him around moving forward. However, that won’t be an easy feat. The 27-year-old is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and will be looking to cash in thanks to the great season he is having. They will have a very tough time coming up with the money to re-sign him given that Binnington is currently in the first year of a six-year, $36 million deal.

Unless they find a way to move on from Binnington (which is extremely unlikely), they will be forced to part ways with Husso this summer. There will be plenty of interested teams, but likely none more so than the Oilers, whose Achilles heel in recent years has been its goaltending. If they are to make an offer, however, they will need to use extreme caution.

Husso is a Very Unproven Goaltender

After being selected in the fourth round (94 overall) in 2014 by the Blues, Husso spent most of his time in the American Hockey League before finally finding his way to the NHL for the 2020-21 season, where he appeared in 17 games. He struggled in limited action during his rookie campaign, compiling a 3.21 GAA along with a .893 SV%.

This season has been a complete turnaround for the Finnish netminder, and people are taking notice. In fact, in a recent article written by Allan Mitchell of The Athletic, he suggested Husso is the best fit of any available goaltenders for the Oilers this summer and believes a potential deal could be $13.5 million over a three-year term, meaning his cap hit would come in at $4.5 million. In my personal opinion, that is far too big of a risk to take (from ‘Allan Mitchell: Lowetide: Early look at Oilers free-agent targets for 2022 offseason’, The Athletic, 03/30/22).

One great and recent example of a similar situation is Alex Nedeljkovic, who many believed the Detroit Red Wings stole from the Carolina Hurricanes this past offseason. It did seem odd that, after a rookie season in 2020-21 which saw him named as one of the three finalists for the Calder Trophy, the Hurricanes chose to move him for just Jonathan Bernier and a third-round pick. It also seemed like a no-brainer for the Red Wings when they immediately afterward signed him to a two-year, $6 million deal.

Alex Nedeljkovic Detroit Red Wings
Alex Nedeljkovic, Detroit Red Wings (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Taking a look now, it appears Hurricanes management may have known something the rest of the league failed to pick up on. Like Husso, Nedeljkovic was very inexperienced, having logged just 29 career games prior to being traded. Now, as a true number one on a significantly bigger contract, he is getting exposed. Through 51 games this season, he has compiled an ugly 3.31 GAA and a .900 SV%. The argument can be made that the Red Wings defence has done him no favors, but there is no doubt Steve Yzerman was hoping for much more when he traded for him.

Few Free Agent Options Available This Summer

While there is plenty of risk in signing Husso, it is understandable why so many are considering, and are even open to the idea of it. This upcoming offseason is not a very good one if you are in need of a goaltender, as there are very few available. Darcy Kuemper is the most intriguing, but it is likely that the Colorado Avalanche strike a new deal with him before he hits free agency. There is also Jack Campbell of the Toronto Maple Leafs, but like Husso, he too is inexperienced, and his struggles over the second half of the season have left me quite hesitant.

To put it simply, finding a netminder capable of guiding Skinner next season won’t be easy for Holland, but he needs to make it happen. He is the one responsible for the situation this team currently finds itself in, and he needs to correct it. Perhaps that is indeed bringing in Husso, but in order for that to make sense for this Oilers squad, the average annual value on the contract cannot be higher than $3 million.

This team does not have the cap room to make any more mistakes moving forward, and this one is a huge risk given Husso’s inexperience. If he is looking for a deal north of $3 million, then Holland would be far better off exploring the trade market and bringing in a far more proven goaltender.

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