St. Louis Blues Make Deals With Jake Allen, Carter Hutton
Early in the first hours of free agency, the deals for goaltenders came quickly. The St. Louis Blues, who last week traded Brian Elliott to the Calgary Flames in a draft day deal, finalized their goaltending for the next few seasons with a pair of deals. Jake Allen has a new four-year extension and Carter Hutton, late of the Nashville Predators, has a two-year UFA deal.
The goaltending carousel in St. Louis had reached storied proportions when they dealt Elliott, apparently at his own request. Today, the Blues inked Jake Allen, who split time with Elliott over the past three seasons, to a four-year extension worth a total of $17.4 million.
Allen has played 99 regular season games over these three seasons, and has long been expected to turn a corner and supplant Elliott. He never quite made observers sit up and take notice, although he has taken on more and more responsibility over time. In 2015-16, he played a career-high 47 games with a .920 save percentage in all situations. Elliott still outplayed him in the playoffs, taking 18 games to Allen’s 4.
Still Allen is only 25. He has been a little rough technically and still has a bit to learn about reading plays in the NHL, but there is some potential for growth there. The question will be whether the Blues, who have notoriously lacked faith in their goaltending in the past, will have enough patience to allow that growth to take place.
Their acquisition today of Carter Hutton indicates that they are hedging their bets to an extent. Hutton, after all, has almost as much experience as Allen: 75 regular season games with the Nashville Predators in the past four seasons and a .910 save percentage overall. That includes one season (2013-14) where he played 40 games after starter Pekka Rinne lost most of a season to post-operative complications.
Hutton chose to leave the Predators this year to try to find a spot where he could play more games. This is as good a chance as any in the league: behind a young, largely inexperienced starter who may or may not need extra time.
It would be a mistake to expect Hutton, who turns 31 in December, to suddenly become something other than he has been elsewhere. While the Blues have a reputation for being defensively stingy, it isn’t as if Hutton is coming from a shooting gallery.
In the past two seasons, the Blues gave up 52.25 shots (including blocked and missed shots) per 60 minutes at 5v5, compared to 49.44 from 2012-2014. The Predators gave up 52.58, and Hutton didn’t especially beat the league average under those conditions. His .916 at 5v5 is solidly below the league 5v5 average, which hovers around .923 for that time period, and his overall .910 isn’t any better. Should the Blues have to rely heavily on Hutton, they probably hope he beats that mark by a good amount.
In the meantime, the Blues have strong prospects coming up in their minor system. In March, InGoal’s Greg Balloch gave the franchise an A for their system depth, saying
Former Michigan Tech Huskies goaltender Pheonix Copley was a major part of the TJ Oshie trade, and is showing why. His AHL numbers have sagged, but he has matured, and will challenge for an NHL spot next season. Ville Husso looks to be the next major name to make his way to North America. He has raised his save percentage in Finland’s Liiga by .012 points, and is posting a .927 as a 21-year-old. Although Jordan Binnington looks to have been passed on the depth chart by Copley, he has the skill to be an NHLer, and is still only 22 years old. Luke Opilka was taken in the previous draft in the fifth round, and has performed exceedingly well in his first OHL season.
It is possible that Copley could get some time in the Blues’ net over the course of the season, but it looks as though St. Louis is prepared to allow him development time with their AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves. By the time the Hutton deal is over, Copley or Husso could well be ready to take on NHL responsibilities.