With Frederik Andersen currently day-to-day with a groin injury, the Toronto Maple Leafs had already been forced to call up Kasimir Kaskisuo – and his .866 AHL save percentage. The team was a Garret Sparks injury away from having the struggling Kaskisuo as their starter in the short term. Depth in net had become a dire need for the organization and today GM Kyle Dubas was quick to address that need. The Maple Leafs have announced that they have acquired goaltender Michael Hutchinson from the Florida Panthers in exchange for a 2020 fifth-round pick.
Hutchinson, 28, is a shrewd pickup for Toronto, especially for a future late-round selection. Hutchinson is not far removed from being a regular fixture in net for the Winnipeg Jets from 2014 to 2017. While Hutchinson lost that job in Winnipeg last season, making only three appearances, he managed to play in 76 games over the three seasons prior. In a total of 106 NHL appearances, including four with Florida this year, Hutchinson has a .907 save percentage and 2.70 GAA. Hutchinson has had his fair share of struggles at both the NHL and AHL level this season and has not been the reliable third-string option to injury-prone Roberto Luongo and James Reimer as the Panthers had hoped when they signed him this past off-season. However, his minor league play has been vastly superior to Kaskisuo’s and his career NHL numbers are quite similar to Sparks’. The Leafs still don’t have a stalwart backup goalie to Andersen, but have cheaply acquired an experienced veteran keeper that is a clear upgrade to their depth in net.
Perhaps the best part about adding Hutchinson is that he has already cleared waivers this season and may be moved back and forth between the Maple Leafs and Marlies at will. Toronto’s goaltending depth issues began just prior to the start of the season, when both Calvin Pickard and Curtis McElhinney were claimed on waivers when the Leafs opted to protect Sparks. Pickard had a rough experience with the Philadelphia Flyers early on, but the Maple Leafs nevertheless tried to reclaim their lost property when the Flyers also placed him on waivers. However, they failed to bring Pickard back in as he was claimed by the Arizona Coyotes. McElhinney, on the other hand, has been the best of the Carolina Hurricanes’ trio of goalies and is unlikely to be up for claim again this season. Hutchinson was likely one of the top two-way keepers available and apparently one of the more affordable.
As for the Panthers, when healthy the duo of Luongo and Reimer have the roster spots in Florida locked up. Hutchinson was never going to overtake either keeper, especially given his performance this season. The team also hoped to get young Sam Montembeault some NHL experience this season and the Springfield Thunderbirds starter now takes over as the organization’s No. 3. It makes sense that the Panthers got what they could for a disappointing signing. However, if injury does strike Luongo again, Reimer’s struggles and Montembeault’s inexperience become of greater concern for Florida, especially if they are fighting for a playoff spot. Expect the Panthers to keep an eye on waivers and the goalie market for the remainder of the season.