While Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price is doing everything he can to return to the ice and be ready for the 2022-23 season, the harsh reality is there’s a solid chance that doesn’t happen. Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes knows this and that’s why he and his scouting staff have already begun planning for life after Price.
More than one NHL scout and one NHL GM have confirmed to Montreal Hockey Now, that the Montreal Canadiens were definitely honed in on St. Louis Blues goalie and unrestricted free agent to be Ville Husso when they had a heavy presence scouting Blues games leading into the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline. Also of note is that Hughes and Canadiens executive vice president Jeff Gorton were huddled up with the Blues brass more than once during intermissions at Games 1 and 2 of the AHL Eastern Conference Final between the Laval Rocket and Springfield Thunderbirds in Springfield last weekend.
Husso lost the starter’s role to teammate and 2019 Stanley Cup hero Jordan Binnington in the Blues’ first round six-game series win over the Minnesota Wild but then got it back mid-way through his team’s six-game series loss to the Colorado Avalanche when Binnington went down with an injury. This all came after a breakthrough walk year for the 27-year-old Husso who is set to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career. Husso went 25-7-6 with a 2.56 GAA and .919 save percentage in the regular season, and while his poor playoff performance may affect his free agent value a bit, he is most definitely up for a hefty raise from the $750,000 cap hit he carried the last two seasons.
Blues general manager Doug Armstrong may have to do some salary cap gymnastics this offseason if he wants to retain Husso and fellow UFA’s forwards Tyler Bozak and David Perron, and defenceman Nick Leddy. Forwards Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko are also headed into the final year of their contracts. Two days after the Blues were beaten by the Avalanche, Blues general manager Doug Armstrong told the media that he intends to do his best to sign all his potential UFA’s but he understands the reality of the salary cap.
“Ville and I had a conversation. He put himself in a very good spot, had a great regular season,” Armstrong said in his end of season presser. “Obviously the playoffs were up and down for all of us, and he was put into a really difficult situation with the Colorado series (when Jordan Binnington was hurt). I’m a Ville Husso fan, and I told him I’d love for him to come back. But it’s a business for him, also. He’s put himself in a spot now where if he wants to test the market, I would understand it. It’s a long time between today and July 13 when [players] are allowed to hit free agency. We have some time to work on it.
I wouldn’t say no. We’re going to go to work, that’s our job, to try to find a way to bring as many good players into the organization – whether they are here or from the outside,” Armstrong said. “The (salary) cap is the cap, everyone knows the numbers. If we can make it work, we will. We’re not just throwing our hands up in the air and saying we can’t bring anyone back. That’s not how the St. Louis Blues have operated and that’s not how we’re going to operate moving forward. We’re going to try the best we can to put on the best team next year.”
So with the good chance that Husso will hit the market or that Armstrong may try and deal his rights, will Hughes target him if he has more clarity on Carey Price?