The player: Carter Hutton, 32, goalie
The terms: Three years, $2.75 million annually from the Buffalo Sabres
Where does he fit in?
As the No. 1 goaltender, of course. But for how long?
In the great goalie carousel of 2018, Hutton was viewed as the top prize. That meant he likely wouldn't consider anyone not offering a third year on the contract. But let's remember: Hutton is a 32-year-old backup. He's cycled through three organizations in the past six years. For the Sabres to expect for Hutton to suddenly transform into a true No. 1 is aspirational -- at best.
That said, he's an upgrade over the tandem of Robin Lehner and Chad Johnson. (Alhough the Sabres were clearly looking to move on from Lehner, his stats weren't terrible, especially playing in front of a very bad team). It's nice that Hutton will get a due showcase after pushing Jake Allen all last season in St. Louis while posting a .933 save percentage.
Eventually the Sabres may want to turn to their own prospect, 24-year-old Linus Ullmark. Hutton has a history of mentoring young goaltenders, so his value to the organization -- which is in a total rebuild -- will go beyond what he does in the net this season.
Does this deal make sense?
From Hutton's perspective, it makes sense, if he doesn't have a strong desire to win a Stanley Cup in his career. Hutton does get to be a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL; a feat we should not take for granted. The Sabres should be reinvigorated this season, welcoming Rasmus Dahlin to the lineup (and also allowing for the growth of young players, like Casey Mittelstadt, who will become regulars for years to come).
But they are certainly not ready to win next season, and may not be ready for a season or two after that. In the Sabres' eyes, Hutton can bring consistency and leadership. Ryan O'Reilly's comments at the end of the season -- his thinly veiled claim that the Sabres were "OK with losing" -- certainly resonated with management. They need to be better next season on the ice, but also in the locker room.
Overall grade: C-plus
Congrats to the Sabres for getting the most coveted goalie available on the market this season. But the price and term both seem high for a 32-year-old who has never been able to cement himself as a No. 1.
Of course, the Sabres had the cap space to make it work, so why not go for it? This makes the team better, but not by much. The Hutton acquisition doesn't elevate our season prognosis for the Sabres -- still bottom-dwellers -- so we can't grade this signing higher.