When he spoke prior to the NHL Draft in Dallas last weekend, Jason Botterill expressed his feeling that the search for a goaltender to complement Linus Ullmark on Buffalo's roster next season stood atop his offseason priorities. He feels the Sabres got their guy in Carter Hutton.
Hutton signed a three-year contract with an average annual value of $2.75 million once free agency opened at noon on Sunday. The goaltender said the Sabres made him feel like "their guy" from the outset of negotiations, and familiarity within the organization helped both sides feel comfortable in the partnership.
"There was a real comfort level with him," Botterill said. "He was a guy our scouts had focused in on, our analytics department certainly liked him a lot, and then you get the character check, it allowed us to have a lot of confidence in making the decision to bring Carter into our group."
READ: Get to know Carter Hutton | READ: Allen breaks down Hutton's game | READ: Hutton sees opportunity in Buffalo
The addition of Hutton headlined a group of four signings on Sunday, which also included forward Scott Wilson, goaltender Scott Wedgewood and defenseman Brandon Hickey. Here's what Botterill had to say about each of the additions.
The Sabres declined to extend a qualifying offer to Wilson, originally a restricted free agent, by the 5 p.m. deadline on Monday, but Botterill made it clear then that the decision was made strictly to avoid arbitration. They were able to keep Wilson in the fold with a two-year contract with an average annual value of $1.05 million.
Re-signing Wilson provides the Sabres with additional depth on the left wing, a position they already addressed by acquiring Conor Sheary from Pittsburgh on Wednesday. Wilson scored 14 points (6+8) in 49 games for Buffalo after being acquired from Detroit on Dec. 4 of last season.
"It was the same reason why we made the trade earlier in the season," Botterill said. "We like Scott's tenacity on the forecheck, the fact he's played in playoff games and Stanley Cup situations, and we still think there's more offense that he can add to his game."
Wedgewood signed a one-year, two-way contract, providing the Sabres with organizational depth in net. The 25-year-old has compiled a .908 save percentage and a 2.38 goals-against average in 116 AHL games. He appeared in a career-high 20 NHL games with Arizona last season.
"Trying to find a competitive environment, you have to have a strong No. 3 within the organization," Botterill said. "You look at Scott's background, what he's accomplished in the American Hockey League, and then especially this past season, getting more NHL experience, we felt it was great to have a goalie with NHL experience to come into that role, but also, too, with his age, we feel that there's growth there.
"A couple years ago, he had some injury issues. He's now healthy and I think as Carter Hutton demonstrates, goalies are always developing and sometimes it takes a little bit longer for them. We certainly see more potential in Scott moving forward."
The Sabres had until Aug. 15 to sign Hickey, who just completed a four-year college career at Boston University, upon acquiring his rights from Arizona on June 14. Hickey expressed excitement about joining the organization during development camp last week.
"We certainly made the trade and immediately, we wanted to try and find a way to get him [to be] a part of our organization," Botterill said. "And then with everything that happened this week - I think it was a very positive week in general for our organization with development camp.
"It was amazing - the fan turnout over at Harborcenter for all our on-ice sessions. I think Brandon felt very comfortable becoming a part of the Sabres organization. You just look at the way he plays, his ability to create, we feel he's a guy who can fit into what we're trying to accomplish here. So, we look forward to developing him as a player."