Of the many questionable decisions that David Poile made in the 2013 free agency period, signing Carter Hutton may have caused the most heads to be scratched. Here was a 27-year-old with only one game of NHL experience set to back up Pekka Rinne. A Pekka Rinne that was coming off massive offseason surgery.
Maybe it wouldn't be too bad. After all, considering the workload Rinne gets in a usual season, Hutton may not even see much time in the crease. Maybe he'd just warm the stool and ball cap for one of the kids in Milwaukee. What's the worst that could happen?
Shame on you if you thought this.
As we all know, Rinne only played nine games for the Predators before missing almost the rest of the season with a hip infection. Hutton was thrust into the spotlight, and was a little ill prepared for the responsibility. Granted, his teammates weren't doing him any favors, but he helped embody the Jekyll and Hyde persona that plagued the Preds early in the year.
For a time, Hutton even lost his job to unknown rookie Marek Mazanec. Despite this, he got his chance to be the starter again and seemed to win the support of management and his coaches. Even when Devan Dubnyk was brought in from the Edmonton Oilers, he was barely used. By the time Rinne came back, Carter Hutton had found his groove and proved to be a reliable backup to close out the season.
Let's watch it one more time:
Ahhh, that's the stuff.
Also, don't forget perhaps one of his strongest outings to date coming late in the season against San Jose. Hutton stopped all 35 shots en route to his first career shutout, and would end the season winning five starts in a row.
Honorable mention to every single one of his in-game segments talking to Terry and Pete from the bench. What a well-spoken young man.
The Road Ahead
It's still unclear whether or not Hutton will be back next season. Mazanec is waiting in the wings and Magnus Hellberg is still around. Though the best course of action would be to trade Hellberg and let Mazanec soak up starts in the AHL for one more season. Hutton could still be an option for a backup, though there are a few guys available in free agency.
The biggest caveat is the status of Jedi Master goalie coach Mitch Korn. He did wonders for Hutton's play and confidence, and it showed by the end of the year. Rinne's health will still be in the back of everyone's minds, so maybe going with a proven backup might be a better idea if Korn isn't around to work his voodoo. Then again, Carter Hutton was in the trenches for this team all year.
For the record, despite Hutton's lackluster beginning to the season, none of the names jump off the page as must haves. He'll get more than the $555,000 he made this past year, but not by much. It'd be worth hanging on to him for another season in order to save money to try to be in on the bidding of a free agent forward. What do you think?
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