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NHL goalies on move since start of free agency

Hutton, Halak, Mrazek among 16 at position to sign with new team

by Kevin Woodley / NHL.com Correspondent

Since NHL free agency began July 1, there have been 16 goalies who signed with new teams and four who re-signed, leaving most starting and backup jobs accounted for.

Here's a look at some of the signings and what it means for their new team: 

 

Carter Hutton, Buffalo Sabres

Three years, $2.75 million average annual value

When it comes to matching ability to opportunity, Hutton fits the Sabres needs in terms of stopping pucks and supporting their likely future No. 1 goalie Linus Ullmark.

Hutton is also familiar with Sabres coach Phil Housley, who was an assistant coach when he played in Nashville (2013-16), and Buffalo goaltending coach Andrew Allen, who worked with Hutton for two years when each were with the Chicago Blackhawks' American Hockey League affiliate from 2011-13.  

Hutton is coming off the best season of his career, going 17-7-3 with a .931 save percentage and .209 goals-against average which led the NHL. After playing as a backup behind Pekka Rinne with the Predators and Jake Allen with the Blues, Hutton showed he was capable of more last season, earning starts ahead of Allen as the season went on. He will get the opportunity to continue playing more regularly with the Sabres, who did not re-sign Chad Johnson or Robin Lehner.

If Hutton, 32, can pick up where he left off with the Blues, which will require better defensive support than the Sabres had last season, and play up to 55 games, the signing will be a win for the Sabres.

With Allen, Hutton showed he is capable of supporting, rather than undercutting, a young goalie while also pushing for more playing time. And if Ullmark, who has a .917 save percentage in 26 NHL games over three seasons, does progress quickly into a No. 1 role, Hutton will be a top NHL backup and mentor on and off the ice.

Video: Hutton talks about joining the Sabres

 

Chad Johnson, St. Louis Blues

One year, $1.75 million AAV

Johnson, 32, is coming off the second worst of his five full NHL seasons, finishing with an .891 save percentage on a Buffalo team that too often left its goalies guessing behind permissive play in its own end. However, Johnson bounced back from an .889 save percentage with the Islanders in 2014-15 to a .920 save percentage with the Sabres in 2015-16 and had a .910 save percentage with the Calgary Flames in 2016-17.

His patient tactical approach should make for a smooth transition behind easier reads in St. Louis, allowing him to play to his strengths by beating plays on his feet, and he's proven capable and comfortable averaging 32 games player per season over the past five, so St. Louis shouldn't have to overwork Allen. 

It's worth noting the one-year contract doesn't hinder Ville Husso, a 23-year-old prospect who had a .922 save percentage in his first season in the American Hockey League last season.

Video: BUF@TBL: C. Johnson thwarts T. Johnson's strong shot

 

Jaroslav Halak, Boston Bruins

Two years, $2.75 million AAV

Halak, 33, had the worst GAA of his 12-year NHL career (3.19) and the third-worst save percentage (.908) behind an Islanders team that gave up a the most goals in the NHL (293). However, his adjusted 5-on-5 numbers last season were similar to Anton Khudobin, who left Boston to sign a two-year, $5 million contract with the Dallas Stars, and Halak was statistically superior over the past three seasons. According to CorsicaHockey.com, Halak's 5-on-5 save percentage of .922 over that stretch is 0.46 above expected based on the location and types of shots he faced, which ranked 15th among goalies to play more than 3,000 minutes, ahead of Hutton (0.45). Khudobin's .916 was 0.21 below expected.

Stylistically, Halak may not be as entertaining as Khudobin's acrobatics, but a more conservative positional approach should be more consistent even if Halak has to prove he can adjust to not playing as often and doing more in practice, behind established No. 1 Tuukka Rask.

Video: NYR@NYI: Halak moves across crease to rob Carey

 

Robin Lehner, New York Islanders

One year, financial terms not disclosed

Lehner, 26, is a low-risk signing with starter upside, but has to prove he can overcome the deficiencies that led to the Sabres not re-signing him.

He started 50 games with the Sabres last season and likely could see around the same number with the Islanders, who hope to see his GAA decrease from 3.01.

His raw talent is undeniable, and it's more about finding consistency and taking better care of himself off the ice so he gives that starter-level skill a chance to shine through more often on it.

Video: Robin Lehner signs one-year deal with the Islanders

 

Petr Mrazek, Carolina Hurricanes

One year, financial terms not disclosed

Like Lehner, Mrazek will try to bounce back from a difficult season split between the Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers.

Mrazek, 26, needs to find better balance between the reactive athleticism that had some saying he'd be the Red Wings' No. 1 goalie in 2015-16, and the over-aggressive positioning that forced him to rely on it too often as his statistics slipped in the three years since.

Video: PHI@PIT, Gm1: Mrazek denies Letang in close

 

Mike McKenna, Ottawa Senators

One year, two-way; $700,000 AAV in NHL

Although most of the focus is on the goaltenders slotted into the NHL, it's important to remember the importance of having three NHL-capable goalies after 95 appeared in an NHL game last season.

McKenna, 35, is coming off consecutive trips to the Calder Cup Final in the American Hockey League (with Syracuse in 2017 and Texas in 2018), and is an ideal mentor for Ottawa's top goalie prospect Filip Gustavsson, who will take part in his first full season in North America in 2018-19.

Video: DAL@ANA: McKenna uses pad to stuff Perry on break

 

Michael Hutchinson, Florida Panthers

One year, financial terms not disclosed

Hutchison, 28, had a .935 save percentage (second) and a 2.08 GAA (third) with Manitoba of the AHL last season and gives Florida a reliable safety net should 39-year-old No. 1 Roberto Luongo, or backup James Reimer, 30, get injured.

Hutchinson has 102 games of NHL experience and is 43-39-11 with a 2.65 GAA, .910 save percentage and three shutouts in parts of five seasons with the Winnipeg Jets.

Video: WPG@DAL: Hutchinson denies Shore and Janmark

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