The Toronto Maple Leafs announced today that they have acquired goaltender Michael Hutchinson from the Florida Panthers in exchange for a fifth-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.
With Frederik Andersen sidelined day-to-day with groin issues and the Maple Leafs calling up Kasimir Kaskisuo from the Toronto Marlies for injury depth, GM Kyle Dubas moved quickly to address an area of the roster that was always one injury away from having some serious question marks following the loss of both Curtis McElhinney and Calvin Pickard to waivers in the Fall.
Kaskisuo has good tools — big, good athleticism, reads the play well — but he was injured earlier this season and is trying to find his game/confidence again at the AHL level. He is not nearly NHL-ready at this stage in his career.
Hutchinson, upon breaking into the league, was considered a potential future starter while platooning starts with Ondrej Pavelec in Winnipeg in 2013-14, posting a .914 save percentage over 38 games. A dip in his numbers while starting around 30 games a year in the next two seasons, plus the emergence of a high-end starter in Connor Hellebyuck and the addition of Laurent Brossoit for the Jets’ backup role (.939 in 10 starts this season) this past July 1, meant Hutchinson was packing his bags to Florida last free agency period.
A miserable handful of starts in Florida later, Hutchinson has been down in the AHL starting for Springfield for the past month or so. The Barrie native has always been a quality AHL starter, posting a .920 save percentage over 145 career AHL games and backstopping St. John’s IceCaps to the 2014 Calder Cup Final. In his last significant AHL stint in 2017-18 for Manitoba, he went 17-5-1 and posted a .935 save percentage.
The 28-year-old was able to go back and forth to San Antonio this season after he was passed through waivers in late September and is currently a few days/games short of the 30 days on the active roster/10 NHL games played required to be eligible for waivers again. The Leafs could also use an emergency recall option if they wanted him to back up at the NHL level during Andersen’s recovery if need be.
The timing of the move is going to sow some panic in Leafs Nation given the sudden announcement of groin trouble for Andersen, but the reality is, the Leafs needed to make some sort of move to shore up their NHL-capable depth at the position and stabilize the situation between the pipes for the Marlies. There is a small cap implication if Hutchinson is playing in the minors, as he makes $1.3 million AAV over his current one-year contract, plus it cost the club a fifth-round pick in 2020. But in a Cup-contending season, Dubas needed to move to address the situation at some point this year, and the recent injury to Andersen — even if it’s a minor situation, as Mike Babcock is suggesting — added even more immediacy to the issue.
This was a situation the Leafs were always going to need to address before the trade deadline passes. We’ll find out over the next few months if this is the piece the Leafs needed to patch up their depth at the position.
Michael Hutchinson Statistics
|2005-06||Markham Majors Minor Midget AAA||GTMMHL||34||2.71||-||||
|St. John's IceCaps||AHL||24||2.3||0.923|||||Playoffs||21||1.95||0.938|