The Buffalo Sabres have an open spot on the depth chart for the role of starting goaltender, and a platoon of Linus Ullmark and UFA Carter Hutton may be the solution.
With the split from Robin Lehner and a reunion with Chad Johnson unlikely, Buffalo will have a new duo of goaltenders entering the 2018-19 NHL season. It has already been stated by Sabres management that Ullmark will be a Sabres next year, but the transition from AHL starter to NHL starter won’t go smoothly without a veteran goalie to split time with.
Hutton enters free agency having posted career bests in save percentage and GAA with a .931% and 2.09 in those respective categories. Hutton played in 32 games, starting 26 in 2018 in St. Louis where he played behind Jake Allen.
Hutton is 32 years old which may be a concern for skeptics. However his age won’t be a deal breaker for the role he would have to play. Hutton would be one piece of a 1A-1B tandem with incoming rookie Linus Ullmark. Hutton’s presence would ensure Ullmark would not see too much action while preparing to be the full-time starter.
Hutton has been with 3 teams in his 5 year career. He played 1 game with the Blackhawks in 2012-13 before joining the Predators in the 2013-14 season. Hutton remained a Predator until 2016-17 when he signed with St. Louis on July 1st, 2016.
Hutton has previously made $725k as a Predator over two seasons and was paid $1.125 million for 2 years in St. Louis. One should expect that he will command a bit more than that in this season’s goalie-deprived free agent class, however the departure of Lehner and Johnson frees up all the team will need for his services. Hutton ideally could fetch between $3-4 million for about 2 years, a more than favorable term for the Sabres.
What may work against the Sabres is that there are teams more desperate for goaltending than Buffalo, and Hutton may be able to earn more money and minutes elsewhere. Chicago and the New York Islanders are 2 teams that come to mind that can challenge Buffalo when negotiating with Hutton. Jason Botterill will not overpay for a first-time starter.
Hutton has posted career highs of 34 starts in 2013-14 and 4 shutouts in 2016-17. He will see a similar number of starts if he joins the Sabres.
Keep an eye on the sight for more free agency coverage and analysis as July 1st approaches. If you liked this article and want to see more follow me on Twitter @LvkeTCB and follow the site @TheChargingBUF on Twitter.
All statistics provided by hockey-reference.com. Contract information provided by capfriendly.com.