In many cases, a free agent addition goes from sensible to senseless once you learn about the price. The truth might be the opposite with Carter Hutton and the Buffalo Sabres.
When rumors circulated about the Sabres’ interest, it seemed like there’d be some serious risk of Buffalo buying too high. After all, Hutton’s fantastic final season in St. Louis (17-7-3 with a fabulous .931 save percentage) far exceeds his overall work as a respectable NHL backup.
It turns out that the Sabres essentially paid him like one, rather than making a huge gamble that he’d be a franchise No. 1. Hutton’s three-year contract is worth $8.25 million, or $2.75M per season.
That’s not bad at all. If Hutton can be an above-average presence in net for Buffalo, this could end up being a steal.
Credit the Sabres for taking advantage of the situation, with at least one report indicating that Hutton might have left considerable money on the table to get a better opportunity with Buffalo. Take a look at Hutton’s comparables and you’ll see that he’s cheaper than Jonathan Bernier and Thomas Greiss while being only a bit more expensive than Mike Condon and Anton Khudobin.
It’s probable that Hutton’s 2017-18 work will end up being unsustainable, yet he generated a reasonably large body of work for a No. 2. Over 138 games played and 114 starts, Hutton’s career save percentage is .915. There’s quite a bit to like here.
Now, this doesn’t mean there is no risk involved.
For one thing, just about every goalie is tough to predict, so we might as well acknowledge that.
Hutton also hasn’t been a go-to guy. He went undrafted and thus had to battle for starts even at lower levels. There’s a risk that fatigue would get to him if Buffalo uses him as a workhorse.
There’s also the team in front of him. One could reasonably argue that his numbers have been amplified, at least at times, by playing for the Predators and especially the Blues. (Nashville was struggling during a portion of his stay.) Will his stats plummet if Buffalo struggles in its own end, as the Sabres have for a discouragingly long period of time?
The journeyman netminder also isn’t young. Hutton is 32, so if the aging curve hits hard, it could hurt.
So, yeah, there are some potential stumbling blocks.
Still, that price really makes this a deft signing by GM Jason Botterill. This could work out nicely if this ends up being a 1a/1b platoon situation. If Hutton’s closer to his 2017-18 self and ends up being a workhorse, it would be one of the best boons of the day.
You rarely know with goalies, but all things considered, the Sabres handled this situation extremely well.
Next up: will they hit the right buttons with Ryan O'Reilly? Chances are, we’ll need to wait until after midnight for that answer.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.