Carter Hutton’s career year, a campaign which saw him lead the NHL in save percentage and goals-against average among 30-game goaltenders, has netted the 32-year-old netminder the most lucrative contract of his career.
Hutton reportedly drew big interest heading into the free agency period, but all signs pointed to the veteran keeper potentially leaving some additional cash on the table for the opportunity to take the crease as a starting goaltender next season. And it appears that’s exactly what he did. Mere months after tying a bow on a campaign that saw him post a .931 SP and 2.09 GAA — the best marks of any goaltender to play at least one-third of the campaign — Hutton is set to ink a three-year, $8.25-million deal with the Buffalo Sabres, according to Fox Sports Midwest's Andy Strickland. The contract marks a significant raise for Hutton, who has more than doubled his earnings from his prior two-year, $2.75-million contract with the St. Louis Blues.
Buffalo’s acquisition of a new starting netminder comes on the heels of the franchise cutting ties with goaltender Robin Lehner. Brought aboard to be a long-term solution in the crease, Lehner struggled with staying healthy and, when between the pipes, keeping pucks out of the net. His .908 SP this past season was seemingly the final straw for Buffalo GM Jason Botterill, who announced ahead of free agency that Lehner wouldn’t be tendered a qualifying offer, effectively ending the newly minted unrestricted free agent’s time with the organization.
Truth be told, while Hutton is unproven as a starting netminder, he’s very well worth taking a flyer on at his new price tag and he had inarguably the best numbers of any goaltender on the open market. It’s not as if he’s a one-year wonder, either. Yes, his performance this past season plays a part in it, but Hutton has posted a solid .922 SP and 2.25 GAA over the past three seasons. If he performs at that rate, he’ll have more than earned his raise.
Of course, the concern is that goaltending wasn’t, isn’t and hasn’t been the biggest concern for the Sabres. Rather, the lack of an effective blueline has been seen as one of Buffalo’s major faults. The Sabres addressed that in part this off-season by way of the first-overall pick, which was used to select projected phenom Rasmus Dahlin, and Buffalo also brought aboard veteran rearguard Matt Hunwick in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins. But if the overall structure and play of the Sabres’ defense doesn’t improve, there’s potential for Hutton’s signing to act as more of a bandaid than an actual fix. If that’s the case, it could fall flat.
The good news is that even if that comes to pass and Hutton, who has waited a long time for this opportunity, struggles to maintain his status as a No. 1 netminder, the contract isn’t hefty enough to be of any real concern in the long run.