Just keep repeating to yourselves: the playoffs are a small sample size.
Sure, the Blues’ postseason exit in six games against the Avalanche is fresh on everyone’s minds, and recency bias may make you think that Ville Husso isn’t a quality goaltender. Don’t let it. Think like a GM, and GMs look at the big picture. Husso, a pending UFA, will be getting a pay raise come July 13. The Blues, who are going to be under another close cap crunch and who will need to sign David Perron to one more deal, need to trim costs. Doug Armstrong has been open to bringing Husso back if it’s doable, but I’m not sure that you need to squint to read between the lines in this statement:
“Ville and I had a conversation (Tuesday) morning,” Armstrong said. “He’s put himself in a very good spot; he had a great regular season. Obviously the playoffs were up and down for all of us. He was put into a really difficult situation coming into the Colorado series.
“I’m a Ville Husso fan. I told him I’d love him to come back, but also it’s a business for him and he’s put himself in a spot now where if he wants to test the market, I would understand it.”
Ville Husso will need to test the market if he wants to get paid what he and his agent believe that he is worth. Teams willing to take a chance on Husso are going to be ones who have some urgency but who need to take a risk for a reward thanks to their Cup windows being tenuous.
What team better fits that description than the Edmonton Oilers?
Swept out of the Western Conference Final by the Colorado Avalanche, the Oilers had a layer cake of issues, one of the biggest being the inconsistencies of Mike Smith. The 40 year old goaltender has one year remaining of a two year deal with an AAV of $2,200,000, but based on his postseason performance (8-6 with a 3.37 GAA and a .913 SV%) the Oilers may want to move on. Husso’s postseason stats weren’t better - in fact, they were worse (3.67 GAA and a .890 SV%), but never underestimate the lure of a consistent regular season goaltender with a solid stats line.
Husso does best Smith in his regular season performance, with a 25-7-6 record, a 2.56 GAA, and a ,919 save percentage. With more opportunities for play, Husso’s stats have improved and he’s been able to strengthen his regular season consistency.
The Oilers struggled during Mike Smith’s injury absences this year, so it’s difficult to really say if their overall problems are of their own making or if Smith deserves the postseason blame, but that’s not what Ken Holland will be thinking of. Upgrading a team’s back end isn’t some philosophical meditation. You look at the outcome, you look at the areas where you need improvement and consistency, and then you work from there. The Oilers have some issues to take care of but the most glaring issue is goaltending.
They’re going to get cap space freed up with multiple expendable UFAs (and Evander Kane) more than likely off of the books. Mikko Koskinen is also a UFA, which means that signing Husso could give Smith an opportunity to play out his career in Edmonton as the backup. Husso speculation has begun in Edmonton, and as good as Husso was in St. Louis this year, next year the Oilers may just help the Blues usher in the era of Chuckie Sideburns.