Buffalo Sabres: Who should they target to partner with Linus Ullmark?

BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 23: Linus Ullmark
BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 23: Linus Ullmark /

As the Buffalo Sabres decide who they should pair up with Linus Ullmark between the pipes, one good candidate to consider is Carter Hutton.

The Buffalo Sabres‘ off-season should be nothing short of dynamic. With a bunch of question marks, the brass of the blue and gold will be searching for the answers they need to vastly improve from their league-worst 62 points.

One area which Buffalo will need to address is in the net. Due to the underwhelming and inconsistent performance of Robin Lehner and Chad Johnson, the Sabres will most probably move on from them.

It appears that the Linus Ullmark era is upon us in the queen city. In fact, general manager Jason Botterill confirmed that Ullmark will be one of the rostered Buffalo goalies during the 2018-19 campaign.

The 2012 sixth round pick enters the 2018-19 season as the defacto starting netminder, despite only appearing in 26 NHL contests. While he came off a very strong season for the Rochester Americans, workload issues are a concern as Ullmark faded down the stretch in the playoffs.

Currently, the only other goalie signed is Jonas Johansson, the Sabres’ third round selection in 2014. He is only 22-years-old, with only 46 games (not including his time in Europe) played between Cincinnati and Rochester of the ECHL and AHL, respectively.

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It is imperative that the Sabres acquire a goaltender capable of stepping in right away as a complement to Ullmark in any capacity, whether it be a backup, a veteran presence or a mentor, a challenger for starts, or a possible number one tender if Ullmark struggles.

For these reasons, the Sabres should make a push to sign Carter Hutton. The 32-year-old from Thunder Bay is coming off a remarkable season as the backup to and Jake Allen in St. Louis.

Of all goaltenders appearing in 30 or more games, Hutton led the league with a tidy 2.09 GAA and a .931 save percentage. Hutton has appeared in 137 career NHL games over six seasons with Chicago (one), Nashville (75), and St. Louis (61). He has solidified his position as a very capable backup, if not a candidate for a starting goaltender.

Last year, he posted career bests in GAA and save percentage, proving he is shown no signs of slowing down. Add to the fact he appeared in 32 games last year, only topped by 40 in 2013-14, and Hutton seems like the perfect fit for the Sabres’ tandem between the pipes.

Hutton signed a two-year, $2.25 million contract with the Blues in 2016-17. There is no question the pending UFA has earned himself a decent raise with his tremendous performance last season.

While there are other options via trade or free agency, the Sabres would be wise to strike early and sign Hutton. Being aggressive is important due to his attractiveness as a possible starting goaltender, so expect heavy competition as free agency commences on July 1.

A two or three-year contract in the neighborhood of $8.5-9 million with a shot at a starting gig, an exciting crop of young playmakers, as well as a possible franchise cornerstone on defense in the draft, should do the trick to see Hutton in the crease as KeyBank Center.

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Do you agree that Hutton is the way to go, or would you like the Buffalo Sabres to focus on another free agent netminder such as Khudobin, Bernier, or Ward? Would a trade make more sense, or should they focus their attention elsewhere? Comment below and let us know your thoughts!