Entering the start of the NHL free agency period, the Sabres needed to add at the most crucial position, and they did that by signing goaltender Carter Hutton.
He’s coming off a stellar season in which he played behind Jake Allen for the St. Louis Blues. Hutton finished with a 17-7-3 record, with career-highs in save percentage (.931) and goals against average (2.09) in 32 games played, making 26 starts.
Hutton joins the Sabres on a three-year contract worth $8.25M ($2.75 AAV) and will head into training camp as the starting goaltender, while Linus Ullmark will play his first full season with the Sabres.
In the eyes of many, this is a solid signing by GM Jason Botterill in an effort to bolster the goaltending from last season as well as give Ullmark a veteran teammate that will help him adjust to the NHL.
Perhaps the main concern of signing Hutton over the other free agent goalies is his performance last year, when compared to his career averages. Although his 63-39-17 record in 138 games played, save percentage of .915% and 2.42 goals against average, there is an unknown as to how he would perform in a starting role since he has been a career backup in the NHL.
Lot of folks here will like this: Botterill says #Sabres analytics department heavily involved in targeting Hutton as a guy who can be a No. 1 goalie.
— Mike Harrington (@ByMHarrington) July 1, 2018
However, despite the uncertainty with Hutton as a starting goalie, he said in an interview with NHL Network shortly after signing that there was about six or seven teams with interest.
“Buffalo right out of the gate was really strong and they knew I was their guy, and that was something that was real important for me.” – Hutton
He also added that he’s comfortable with both Phil Housley as well as goalie coach Andrew Allen, both of whom played a role in his choosing to come to Buffalo.
Later in the interview, he also acknowledged the role he will likely play as a Sabre:
“My main goal is going in to win hockey games, I’d love to get higher into the 50s [games]… at the same time, we got a good young goalie who’s going to be my partner, Linus Ullmark and so for me, it’ll be fun being in that different stage now where I’m not the young guy and I can do a good job by helping him out.”
Hutton said they want to protect Ullmark and don’t want to rush him, but they know he’s their guy. They want to use his experience in a mentor role.
— Paul Hamilton (@pham1717) July 1, 2018
Hutton seems to know what his role is and by the end of his three-year contract, there is a good chance that Ullmark could very well be the starter. Botterill mentioned that there will be some internal competition for starts, which should push both goaltenders in a positive way.
Fans will get to see a pair of new goaltenders in the crease this season. It’s a welcomed change and one that many hope is much more effective.