Goaltender Husso’s future is one of the keys to Blues’ offseason | St.Louis Blues

Goaltender Husso's future is one of the keys to Blues' offseason |  St.Louis Blues

One of the underrated things that Doug Armstrong brings to the table as the Blues’ general manager is an ability to space out expiring contracts. That’s not an easy task in this era of free agency and the salary cap.

Give an assist here to assistant GM Ryan Miller, who does much of the heavy lifting when it comes to numbers crunching.

So as the Blues’ enter the offseason, they have eight of their top nine forwards under contract for at least next season. It’s 11 of their top 13 if you want to extend it down the roster.

On defense, it’s six of their top eight.

That’s an impressive returning nucleus from a team that finished ninth in the overall NHL standings during the regular season, finished third in offense, 11th in defense and reached the quarterfinals of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The biggest question is in goal, where Ville Husso is scheduled for an unrestricted free agency.

And that’s no disrespect to forward David Perron or defenseman Nick Leddy, the team’s two other UFAs of note. As tough as it would be to lose Perron, the Blues do have eight other returning 20-goal scorers under contract for next season.

People are also reading…

As for Leddy, re-signing him has seemed like a longshot from the time of the trade-deadline deal that brought him here from Detroit, given the $5.5 million cap number on his expiring contract. Besides, Niko Mikkola and Scott Perunovich clearly seem ready for larger roles.

With just under $10 million in cap space available for next season, the Blues won’t be able to sign all three — Perron, Husso and Leddy. Not unless they want to move some other salary.

Armstrong might want to prioritize Husso because there isn’t a clear-cut replacement in the organization. Top prospect Joel Hofer, 21, probably needs another year of seasoning in the American Hockey League.

I have lost nearly the entire 2020-21 season because the overall COVID situation limited his playing time in the AHL. This regular season, he was 18-14-6 with a 2.92 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage for the Springfield Thunderbirds.

Before that, Hofer had only 11 games of pro hockey experience in the AHL. He has been sizzling so far this postseason, with a 4-0 record with a 1.51 GAA and .962 save percentage.

The other option on a Husso-less Blues roster is Charlie Lindgren, aka “Chucky Sideburns.” He helped keep the Blues’ season afloat in December with an astounding 5-0-0 record, 1.22 GAA and .958 save percentage during a stretch in which Husso had a lower-body injury and Binnington was on the COVID list.

Lindgren also had a strong regular season in Springfield: 24-7-1, 2.21 goals-against, and 925 save percentage. He has appeared in two playoff games so far for Springfield with a 3.50 GAA and .916 save percentage. He made 50 saves in one of those postseason games, and yielded six goals in the other — although the T-Birds won both contests.

Lindgren, 28, is a career minor-leaguer who spent most of his time in the Montreal organization. Has he shown the Blues enough this season that they have confidence in him as Binnington’s backup while Hofer gets more AHL seasoning?

Even if that’s the case, Lindgren is also a pending unrestricted free agent. So he would have to be re-signed, presumably to a much cheaper deal than if the team re-signed Husso.

As for Husso’s market, that might depend on how much teams — including the Blues — value his regular-season performance versus his postseason play.

There’s no doubt Husso helped save the team in the regular season while Binnington was floundering. Husso was among the league’s best two or three goalies over a two-month stretch in January and February

Will teams value his regular-season resume — 25-7-6 record, 2.56 GAA, .919 save percentage? His save percentage ranked seventh, his goals-against ranked 13th among NHL goalies with at least 20 appearances. So it was a breakout season.

Or will more weight be placed on his postseason struggles — 2-5 record, 3.67 GAA, .890 save percentage? Among the 18 goalies with more than two postseason games played, Husso ranks 18th in goals-against and 17th in save percentage.

Husso undoubtedly cost himself some money with his playoff performance, but the free-agent market in July will not be flooded with goalies. Right now, the list includes Darcy Kuemper, Jack Campbell, Marc-Andre Fleury, Braden Holtby and Mikko Koskinen.

But several of those players could be re-signed and off the market by the start of free agency.

So Husso might not have a ton of competition on the goalie market when free agency begins. Particularly if he has a chance to go somewhere as the starter, or at least in a 1A situation, that might make him too expensive for the Blues.

Some fans may say good riddance after his work in the playoffs. But the Blues have invested a lot of time in his development. In those circumstances, particularly given Husso’s regular-season work, Armstrong generally doesn’t like to let such players just walk, if he can help it.

But if the Blues do have to enter 2022-23 without Husso as at least a safety net, they should definitely have more confidence in Binnington after his stellar postseason performance before he was injured.

rosen clears

Defenseman Calle Rosen, who appeared in 18 regular-season and nine postseason contests for the Blues, has cleared waivers. That opens the way for him to join the Springfield Thunderbirds in the AHL playoffs.

The Thunderbirds have advanced to the Eastern Conference finals against the Laval Rocket. Game 1 is Saturday.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.