The Toronto Maple Leafs have brought back a familiar face, signing goaltender Michael Hutchinson to a two-year, two-way contract. The deal will carry an average annual value of $725K at the NHL level, making Hutchinson an inexpensive depth option at what has become a crowded position in Toronto.
Maple Leafs fans will certainly be pulling their hair out reading this news, after Hutchinson was basically run out of town for his poor performance last season. The 30-year-old goaltender posted an .886 save percentage in 15 appearances with the Maple Leafs, going 4-9-1 before eventually being shipped to the Colorado Avalanche. Perhaps it’s Colorado where his stock rose again, as Hutchinson was forced into action for the Avalanche during their postseason run and played admirably.
Though Hutchinson now comes to Toronto as the potential fourth option behind starter Frederik Andersen, backup Jack Campbell, and newcomer Aaron Dell, this move does check off a few boxes for the Maple Leafs. First, and likely foremost, Hutchinson would give the team another option should Dell be claimed on waivers if the team ever decided to send him to the minor leagues. Second, Hutchinson will now actually fill the expansion draft requirement for the Maple Leafs if they decide to leave Andersen unsigned and protect Campbell next year. Every team needs to expose at least one goaltender that is signed through the 2021-22 season, something that Andersen and Dell both do not represent.
If the AHL season goes as planned, it will be interesting to see how the Maple Leafs work out playing time though. Dell and Hutchinson are both veterans who could succeed at the minor league level, but the team also has two prospects in Joseph Woll and Ian Scott that will need seasoning. There is the speculation that the NHL may carry a taxi squad or increased rosters due to the COVID-19 protocols, in which point Dell or Hutchinson would be a strong option as a third traveling goaltender.