The Red Wings signed goaltender Ville Husso to a three-year contract on July 8 in the midst of the 2022 NHL Draft. Husso was up for grabs as a result of the St. Louis Blues being unable to work him into their cap space, and he has found a new home in Detroit. Filling out the goaltending tandem was a huge wish list item for the Red Wings during the offseason, and they have finally found their guy.
Husso made 40 regular season appearances with the Blues and had a 25-7-6 record and .919 save percentage. He was given the nod over Jordan Binnington for a portion of the season due to a decrease in Binnington’s confidence and swagger that had made him the standout starter. The Blues earned a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, where he started six of seven games he played, but he did not have the most successful run. With a 2-5-0 record and .890 SV% in his first run for the Cup, he’s going to want more success going forward.
Husso was drafted 94th overall in the 2014 NHL Draft, and his career began a while after in the 2020-21 season. Prior to the NHL, he played with HIFK of the Liiga and represented his home country of Finland in a number of international tournaments. He made his way over to the United States for the 2016-17 season and joined the Chicago Wolves of the AHL and then the Missouri Mavericks of the ECHL for a combined 35 games played.
From here, Husso joined the San Antonio Rampage (now the Henderson Silver Knights) until the 2020-21 season, when he took NHL ice for the first time. In his first NHL season, he appeared in 17 games with a 9-6-1 record and .893 SV%. But it was the 2021-22 season where Husso really found his stride and began to live up to his expectations. As previously mentioned, he was outshining Binnington for some time, which is a testament to the level of skill he possesses.
The Red Wings’ Goaltending Tandem
The first question on everyone’s mind now that the Red Wings have secured their second goaltender is, “who will be the starter?” While there will not be a direct answer to that question for quite a bit, there is plenty of speculation floating around.
Here, I’ll take a look at what seem to be the most obvious three choices and how they could play out.
Very similar to Alex Nedeljkovic, Husso is coming off of his busiest NHL season yet and is settling into his game. Both goaltenders have a lot to prove in this upcoming season and are near the same spot in their careers, so would an even-split tandem be the outcome? Since they are both staring down the same path, with Nedeljkovic being the residing starter and Husso being the newcomer, it may be the best option to give them nearly equal amounts of playing time.
“I feel like these days in hockey, it’s good to have two good goalies. I haven’t met Alex yet but I’m looking forward for that. I think we will be a good goalie duo.”–Ville Husso
Nedeljkovic played nearly double the number of games he had played in four seasons in just a single season, so there was no doubt that he needed time to rest. However, this time off was impeded by not having a strong backup goaltender to fill his spot on the ice, sending a fatigued player into games unprepared. Husso will fill out the Red Wings’ goaltender tandem remarkably well and will help take the weight off of Ned’s shoulders — giving them both the chance to play the best that they can. Even if the 1A/1B situation only lasts through the first month or so of the season, it would provide the opportunity to find the strongest goaltender to get that primary starting position.
Nedeljkovic Gets the Initial Nod
Since he has been with the team longer, Nedeljkovic could get the starting spot at the beginning of the season. With a new coach taking over in Derek LaLonde, he may prefer to stick to what most of the guys on the team know for a couple of games until they establish a rhythm with both goaltenders. In the 2021-22 season, he had a 20-24-9 record and .901 SV%, which is not a horrible stats line, given the state of the Red Wings’ defense. Prior to joining the Red Wings, Nedeljkovic played 29 NHL games over a four-year span with the Carolina Hurricanes, so this was his most demanding season thus far.
Nedeljkovic has a lot to work cut out for him this year since his contract expires at the end of the 2022-23 season. If he wants an extension, he is going to have to play as he did at his peak stretches in the previous season more consistently. He excelled tremendously in short stretches before falling down dramatically in terms of performance for a few games. Once again, it is important to note that he was playing behind Moritz Seider and then a rather abysmal defense otherwise.
Husso Takes the Helm
Now, this is the option that most are leaning towards at this point from what I have observed; Husso becoming the Red Wings’ primary starting goaltender. Just by glancing at the stats, he is a significant bit better than Nedeljkovic, so that could be enough of an indicator that he should get the go-ahead to start. He excelled through the regular season and helped be an integral part of getting his team to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
There is a lot of excitement around Husso joining the Red Wings for the upcoming 2022-23 season. This excitement is coupled with a boatload of anticipation for how the new goaltender tandem will work. His contract with the Red Wings will span three seasons with an AAV of 4.75 million — a notable step up from his previous standard contract and extension with the Blues. Although this is a contract year for Nedeljkovic, Yzerman has indicated that the Husso deal will not stop him from extending Ned.
Adding a new goalie into the mix alongside a new coaching staff makes for a lot of question marks, that’s for sure. With Thomas Greiss being officially out of the picture and a much stronger and younger player taking his spot, the Red Wings are now in a much better position for success. Neither Husso or Nedeljkovic brings a ton of NHL experience to the table, but both have plenty of talent and potential. As Yzerman said in a press conference, “We feel we have two guys who we can put in net every night and give us a chance to win.”