THUNDER BAY – Carter Hutton put himself in the best possible spot heading into free agency this past off-season.
The Thunder Bay goaltender led the National Hockey League in goals against average (2.09) and save percentage (.931) and essentially stole the No. 1 spot with the St. Louis Blues away from Jake Allen.
Hutton, who spent two seasons in St. Louis, was clearly one of the top two goaltenders on the market this summer, giving him the opportunity to sit back a field the offers coming in.
The 32-year-old ultimately chose the Buffalo Sabres, who jettisoned Robin Lehner and Chad Johnson, as the team retooled around star forward Jack Eichel and No. 1 overall draft pick, defenceman Rasmus Dahlin.
Hutton signed a three-year, 8.25-million contract with the Sabres, and is expected to be the team’s top choice between the pipes, earning the majority of the playing time with Linus Ullmark serving in a back-up role.
It was a pretty easy choice, Hutton said on Monday, after taking part in the Summer Hockey Classic to kick off the fifth-annual Staal Foundation Open.
“All of a sudden you have a great year and you sit back and you start analyzing the market. I sat down with my family and my agent and tried to assess where we were at,” Hutton said. “We had a lot of options. So from there we kind of created a list of things that needed to get done for it to work and Buffalo was one of those teams that just hit every box.
“For me it’s a great opportunity. I want to play more minutes. I want to compete. I have that competitive nature, so it’s going to be a great fit.”
Hutton, who didn’t arrive in the NHL until he was 27, has put together a stellar career as a solid back-up, first to Pekka Rinne in Nashville, then to Allen the past two seasons in St. Louis.
Over six seasons, he’s posted a 63-39-17 record with 11 shutouts and a 2.42 goals against average in 138 career games.
There’s lots to like about the Sabres, he said, calling it a good young team.
“There’s a lot of buzz in the city right now. You have (Dahlin) and a player like Jack Eichel. He’s a superstar. We have some really good players and it’s a market that’s ready to win and I’m not just excited to join in and just do what I do best,” Hutton said.
Next month, Hutton will host his second golf tournament in support of the George Jeffrey Children’s Foundation.