Red Wings Signing Cam Talbot Leads to Ville Husso Uncertainty

The Hockey Writers

The first day of free agency is in the books and I think it’s safe to say it was an interesting one for the Detroit Red Wings organization. General manager Steve Yzerman added not one, but two goaltenders to the roster with the signings of Cam Talbot and Jack Campbell. Raise your hand if you had that on your Red Wings’ bingo card. Talbot inked a two-year deal with an average annual value (AAV) of $2.5 million. The 36-year-old veteran had a 27-20-6 record in 54 games with the Los Angeles Kings last season while posting a 2.48 goals-against average (GAA) and a .913 save percentage (SV%).

Talbot – assuming no other moves are made in free agency – will provide veteran depth at the goaltender position, joining Alex Lyon and Ville Husso in a crowded platoon. Campbell, coming off a difficult season with the Edmonton Oilers, will – most likely – help mentor top prospect Sebastian Cossa for Detroit’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins. But Talbot’s deal signals an uncertain future for Husso in the Motor City.

Cam Talbot Los Angeles Kings
Cam Talbot, Los Angeles Kings (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

I have to admit I did not see this acquisition in the cards for the Red Wings, yet at the same time, it does make sense. The two-year term and salary are appropriate as they should bridge the gap to Cossa’s arrival in Detroit. The 2021 first-round pick, and top goaltending prospect in the organization, is at least a year or two away from being the go-to guy in the crease. He shined for the Griffins this past season going 22-9-9 with a .913 SV% and a 2.41 GAA. The 6-foot-6 netminder quelled any and all doubts about his status as the goaltender of the future for Detroit. Lyon, who was originally signed to be the third-string prior to the start of the 2023-24 season, was forced into the starter’s role for a good portion of the schedule – due to injuries to Husso and backup James Reimer – and posted respectable numbers with a 21-18-5 record to go along with a .902 SV% and 3.05 GAA in 44 games. But Lyon faltered down the stretch as the club missed the playoffs for an eighth consecutive season.

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Husso has been a polarizing figure for Detroit fans ever since Yzerman signed him to a three-year $14.25 million deal, after trading a third-round pick to the St. Louis Blues for his rights, during the summer of 2022. He battled groin injuries this past season that limited him to just 19 appearances for the Red Wings. Even when healthy, the 6-foot-3 Finnish netminder struggled with a 9-5-2 record to go along with a .892 SV% and a 3.11 GAA and never seemed to show the promise he once had prior to his arrival in the Motor City.

Husso had a breakout campaign for the Blues during the 2021-22 season with a 25-7-6 record, a .919 SV% and a 2.56 GAA. He took over the crease from starter Jordan Binnington during the regular season, playing in 40 games, but lost it back to Binnington in the playoffs where he struggled mightily. Detroit took a chance during the offseason hoping he could recapture that magic, but obviously it hasn’t worked out. Now, with the addition of Talbot, his status in Detroit seems all but uncertain. Will Husso be moved out before the end of the free agency period? I have to believe so. I can’t see the Red Wings going with a three-goalie platoon as they did at the beginning of last season. A fresh start may be in the best interest of both parties at this point. But what does this all mean for Detroit heading into the 2024-25 season?

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Talbot’s signing seems to create more questions than answers. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound netminder represented the Kings at the 2024 NHL All-Star Game, making it his second All-Star berth in three years – having been previously selected to represent the Minnesota Wild at the 2022 NHL All-Star Game. The 6-foot-4 Caledonia, Ontario native dominated in his first 25 appearances with the Kings, going 14-8-3 with a .925 SV% and 2.10 GAA. Among goaltenders – at the time – with at least 20 games played, Talbot’s GAA and SV% led the league. He also saved 10.7 goals above expected, the sixth-highest margin among goalies who cleared the 50-game mark according to Money Puck. But he, too, began to struggle as the season progressed and Los Angeles had to turn to journeyman goalie David Rittich for stretches during the second half of the season.

It’s not hard to argue that Detroit could have ended their postseason drought had they employed consistent goaltending last season. Can Talbot be that guy for the Red Wings in 2024-25?

The 11-year veteran turns 37 on July 5, so age can and will be a factor, but I think you can pencil him in for somewhere between 35-40 starts in a platoon with Lyon. The Kings overworked Talbot last season. He won’t be seeing anywhere near the 54 starts he saw with Los Angeles. As the organization realized last season, injuries do play a factor. The Red Wings can bring up Campbell for spot starts if either goalie struggles but I’m not sure the club wants any more than that from the former first-round pick.

Is Talbot an elite goalie? No, but there wasn’t much on the market to choose from after Linus Ullmark was traded to the Ottawa Senators and Jacob Markstrom was acquired by the New Jersey Devils. That kind of goaltending doesn’t grow on trees and Yzerman was wise to not overpay when you consider that Cossa and the team’s other top prospect, Trey Augustine, are waiting in the wings. He was one of the better netminders on the market and the price makes the acquisition seem more reasonable. Talbot is an inexpensive upgrade at the position, something the Red Wings desperately needed.

Three’s a Crowd

So where does that leave Husso? We’re currently in the early stages of free agency so a lot can happen between now and the start of the season. I have to believe Yzerman is looking for a way to move Husso out. He is in the final year of his three-year deal so that still can be a possibility but he may have to get creative as his value is at an all-time low. I can’t envision that many teams are willing to take on his $4.75 million cap hit for a goalie with a consistent track record of injuries and struggles.

Final Thoughts

The first day of free agency may have seemed a little underwhelming for Red Wings fans but there’s still more work to do. If I had to guess, Husso will be wearing another uniform by the end of July. The question is where? It may take some time as the free agent period plays out, but there will hopefully be teams that need to hit the cap floor. If Husso is healthy, he could be a reliable backup for a contending team, but I wouldn’t expect much more than that at this point. In his pre-draft press conference, Yzerman stated that “he didn’t envision” carrying three goalies on the roster this season. It can and will be a difficult challenge, but the Talbot acquisition definitely signals that something is in the works in Motown. Time will tell.

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