By Chris Block
On Friday, the Blackhawks officially signed Rockford IceHogs goaltender Carter Hutton to a one-year, two-way contract. The deal is for the remainder of this season. Hutton was immediately then reassigned to the IceHogs by the Blackhawks.
With the IceHogs, Hutton has a record of 10-8-0-2 and owns a 2.93 goals against average and .902 save percentage. His 21 starts and 10 wins lead the IceHogs. With the exception of one period of relief of Alec Richards during a late October call up while Alexander Salak was away tending to the birth of his first child, all of Hutton’s numbers have been accumulated since his recall on December 3rd.
In 9 starts in the month of January, Hutton went 7-1-0-1 posting a 1.86 GAA and .934 save percentage.
Hutton signed a one-year AHL contract with the IceHogs on August 1st.
Unlike the situation last season with Garnet Exelby, who had signed a professional try-out contract with Rockford, Hutton did not need to be signed by either the IceHogs or the Blackhawks to finish out the season with Rockford. Before Exelby’s PTO expired he was signed to a two-way contract by the Chicago Blackhawks.
A PTO covers up to 25 games played. Players can sign up to two (2) PTO’s with one team before either the AHL or the parent club must sign the player to a standard contract. Hutton had been on a standard AHL deal. Recently former IceHogs winger Hugh Jessiman left the Lake Erie Monsters and signed with Abbotsford after his second PTO had expired and he was unable to come to terms with Lake Erie or their parent club, the Colorado Avalanche.
For the Blackhawks, the Hutton signing is a simple depth and insurance signing for the remainder of the season and playoffs. Alexander Salak, the team’s top current prospect at the position, has recently returned from an ankle injury and has yet to establish himself as the IceHogs clear number one goaltender, something Hutton had done in Salak’s ten-week absence.
Hutton’s signing comes after Alexander Salak was in net for all three IceHogs’ games last week (all losses) and four of the past five starts. Hutton was pulled after allowing five goals on twenty shots in his last start on Feb 11th against the Chicago Wolves. IceHogs coach Ted Dent absolved Hutton of the blame after that game, citing poor defensive zone coverage (true). However, Dent did follow that by starting Salak in the next three games including the back-to-back last weekend in Ontario. Salak allowed eight goals in those two starts. Before those games, Salak allowed just two goals in 150 minutes (0.80) of action upon his return from the ankle injury.
Before being recalled by Rockford on December 3rd, Hutton posted a record of 7-7-0-0 with the Toledo Walleye (the Blackhawks and IceHogs ECHL affiliate). There, he had a .900 save percentage and 3.15 goals against.
Had it not been for the tremendous run of goaltending Hutton provided the IceHogs in January, the team’s record would be far worse than its current 21-26-2-4.
Since January though, Hutton has a 5.33 GAA and .814 save percentage in his three starts, all losses.
Friday’s signing of Hutton is a depth signing by the Blackhawks, providing them some insurance specifically for the backup role in Chicago should Corey Crawford or Ray Emery go down to injury. Hutton receives a sizeable raise on his AHL salary as well.
Salak is still regarded as the top prospect the Blackhawks have currently under contract for that position, but his season (14 starts, 4-7-0-2, 2.80GAA, .900), which Salak himself has admitted, has been a disappointment.
The IceHogs drop the puck tonight at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, IL for the start of a three-in-three weekend. After facing the Wolves tonight, the IceHogs will host Milwaukee on Saturday night and then rematch the Wolves on Sunday in Rockford. Tony Esposito will be at the game on Sunday to sign autographs for 300 fans. Sunday’s matchup is the last in the 12-game season series between the IceHogs and Wolves. So far, Rockford is 4-6-0-0 versus the Wolves.