THUNDER BAY – Carter Hutton is headed home, of sorts.
The veteran Thunder Bay goaltender on Wednesday signed a one-way, one-year, $750,000 deal with the Arizona Coyotes and will once again play in the Central Division, the Coyotes moving there to join three of Hutton’s former teams to make way for the expansion Seattle Kraken in the West Division.
Hutton spent five of his eight full seasons in the Central, three with Nashville and two with St. Louis, where in 2017-18 he led the National Hockey League in both goals against average and save percentage. He also made his NHL debut in the Central, getting in one game with the Chicago Blackhawks on the final weekend of the 2012-13 campaign.
“Going back to the Central Division I think is great for me. I think the East is a little bit wide open and obviously in Buffalo it didn’t fare well for us in general,” Hutton said, reached by phone hours after the signing was made public on the opening day of NHL free agency.
“Going to Arizona it’s in the Central Division that I know very well. I think my attributes as a goalie pair well. I think my puck-handling ability plays well in the Central. It’s going to be exciting.”
It’s certainly more promising than the end of his 2020-21 campaign.
Hutton hurt his knee in March in a game against the New York Rangers after being hit by Rangers forward Julien Gauthier and never returned.
It was easily his worst season in the big leagues, playing for a Sabres team that at one point lost a record 18 straight games and finished last overall.
Hutton finished with a 1-10-1 record, a 3.47 goals against average and a .886 save percentage, not exactly numbers that create a lot of interest in a contract year.
“It was obviously difficult,” he said. “You want to play, you want to help out. I thought at the time of the injury I was playing well. We had a coaching change and a few guys moved out and the team started to play a lot better too, which you want to be a part of.
“I think at times it was a little bit scrambly. It’s not that I was the solution either. Obviously I wasn’t my best at times, and I thought at times I was my best and there was not really much I could do. Some things happen, you can’t control it, you move on and I’m glad it worked out.
“I’m glad I have enough of a resume and a rapport in the league that Arizona was excited to give me an opportunity.”
In nine seasons, Hutton has a 94-88-27 record, with a 2.71 goals against average, a .909 save percentage and 13 shutouts in 231 games.