Photo Credit: MSN.com
By: Mark Allred | Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277
Boston Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney certainly has his work cut out for him with a long list of contract negotiations this offseason. Bruins backup goaltender Anton Khudobin’s two-year $1.2 million contract comes to an end on July 1, 2018, and it remains to be seen whether or not he returns to Boston or test the free agent market. Khudobin, who turned 32 on May 7,2018 has expressed great interest in coming back to the Bruins organization saying in quotes below from 985TheSportsHub.com’s B’s writer Ty Anderson’s May 14, 2018 article that can be seen in full HERE.
Khudobin said “I want to be here. I like here. I’ve been in California, I’ve been in Texas, I’ve been in Carolina, I’ve been in Minnesota. I’ve been in a lot of cities and a lot of states, and Boston is my favorite one,” Khudobin said. “Don [Sweeney] knows that I love it here. I love the city and everybody knows it. How much is it going to be a factor in signing a new contract, I don’t know. I don’t think it will be a factor. I don’t think it matters. It matters what they can offer, and how much I’m willing to take.”
“I would love to stay here. I’m 32 right now, and if I’m going to play until 40, I would love to play another eight years here,” Khudobin continued. “So that’s clear for me, and if we will get a deal, today, or tomorrow, or in free agency, I don’t know.”
But if it will happen in Boston, I will be happy.”
Anton struggled in year-one of his second tour of duty with the Bruins organization going 7-6-1 with a 2.64 goals-against-average and .904 save percentage in 16 games played in 2016-17 but changed his game for the better when then intern Head Coach Bruce Cassidy took over for the fired Claude Julien in the Spring of 2017. Khudobin’s numbers were far better during the 2017-18 National Hockey League campaign where he posted a 16-6-7 with a 2.56 GAA and .913 Save% in 31 games played.
The backup role and the job Anton did last season is going to garner leverage when the aging veteran sits down to talk about an extension as he was a key member in the crease to start the 2017-18 season and value when starter Tuukka Rask needed time off. Last season was the best year for a Bruins backup netminder dating back to the 2013-14 season where former Bruin goaltender Chad Johnson posted a 17-4-3 record with a 2.10 GAA and .924 Save%.
With the positive things Khudobin has said above and GM Sweeney’s intent to bring him back, what’s the organization going to do if he wants to test the free agent market with hopes of landing a starting position somewhere else in the NHL? Below are a few ideas that I’ve been thinking about lately and could be great fits here in Boston with cap friendly deals.
Promote From Within And Give Zane McIntyre Another Chance?
Photo Credit: NHL.com
If this Bruins team wants to save valuable cap space and use those funds to address other areas of concern, then 2010 sixth-round draft pick of the B’s Zane McIntyre could be moved up to the NHL for the last year of his two-year deal where he’ll make $650K. My concern with a move like this is McIntyre’s numbers when he’s had the opportunity to show what he’s got at the highest level in the world. In eight career games with the NHL Bruins, he has a 0-4-1 record with a 3.97 GAA and .858 Save%.
In the American Hockey League with the Providence Bruins the 6′-2″ 200-pound 25-year-old netminder has had his struggles to begin his professional career but has posted solid numbers in his last two seasons with the top minor-pro affiliate of the Boston Bruins. After going 14-8-7 in 31 games during the 2015-16season, Zane put a stranglehold on his development and work ethic to post a record of 47-21-3 with a 2.27 GAA and .922% in 78 games played after his rookie season.
If the plan is to stay within the organization and save money as mentioned above, then this would be a sufficient move and if he wants to stay longer with Boston, he’s going to have to take every opportunity during this offseason to work hard and prove to the Bruins Brass that he’s still a value in the depth of this organization. If Khudobin is re-signed to an extension, I have to believe that next season could be McIntyre’s last with the Black and Gold and might have a better career elsewhere in the NHL with current goaltending prospects rising up the depth charts.
Possible Additions Via Free Agency
Photo Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports
Hutton had his second best season when it comes to wins last year with the St. Louis Blues organization where he posted a record of 17-7-3 with a 2.09 GAA and .931 Save% serving as the backup to Blues starter Jake Allen. The 32-year-old Hutton is an unrestricted free agent as of July 1st, and with his performance last season I wouldn’t be surprised if the Blues lock him up for another year or two, but if he goes to free agency, the Bruins should consider him if Khudobin doesn’t return.
The 6’1″ 202-pound netminder is a six-year pro in the NHL and last years cap hit for the Thunder Bay, Ontario native was only $1.25 million and will be looking for an increase in pay for the upcoming season that I believe the Bruins could afford with the cap going up next season. Hutton does have some familiarity with the Boston area as he spent his four-year collegiate hockey career playing for Division 1 UMass-Lowell which is not far from the state capitol.
Also, important to point out is what the Blues are going to do with their cap situation when thinking about re-signing players. Current Blues goaltending prospect Jordan Binnington spent all of last season with the American Hockey Leagues Providence Bruins where he had his second-best season at the minor-pro level on loan from the Blues organization. The Blues did not have an AHL affiliate last year, so the team’s prospects were scattered all over the AHL to get playing time. The 24-year-old Binnington signed a one-year extension in July 2017 and will be a restricted free agent on July 1st. If Hutton is not resigned, Binnington would be a good choice for the backup duties at a low cap-friendly value. Binnington played in 28 games for the Providence team and posted a 17-9-0 record with a 2.05 GAA and .926 Save%.
Photo Credit: NHL.com
Hutchinson is a former prospect of the Boston Bruins who was drafted in the third-round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. The 6′-3″ 202-pound netminder spent some time with the AHL Providence Bruins appearing in 87 games with a record of 39-37-5 and 2.59 GAA and .915 Save% in three seasons of work with the Bruins affiliate.
Hutchinson only appeared in three games for the Winnipeg Jets organization going 2-1-0 but was demoted to the Jets Affiliate in the AHL the Manitoba Moose and used his anger for the transaction downward as a way to get better and prove to Jets management that he belongs back in the NHL.
With the Moose, he posted a 17-5-1 record with a 2.08 GAA and .935 save percentage after losing his job in the NHL to Connor Hellebuyck which now seemed like the right move for the Jets Brass as they’re currently in the Western Conference Finals playing the new surprising franchise, the Vegas Golden Knights with Hellebuyck in goal. Hutchinson is set to be an unrestricted free agent on July 1st, and with the depth in goal for the Jets, I don’t believe he will re-sign with the team just to possibly play in the AHL next season.
I believe a move out of Winnipeg would be a solid motivator for the 28-year-old Hutchinson and if the Bruins can’t get a deal done with the current backup in Khudobin, I’d certainly take a chance with “Hutch” and his cap-friendly $1.3 million that the Jets paid during the 2017-18 season.