Photo Credit: NHL.com

What lies ahead for Ben Hutton?

Now four years into his NHL career with the Canucks, Ben Hutton’s future is at a standstill. Playing for a franchise in transition that is trying to find players that will be part of their future success, Hutton might be referred to as a former Canuck sooner rather than later.

At 26-years-old, the defenceman is on the other side of the player with potential hill. He has enough NHL minutes to show exactly the type of defenceman he is, whether that be one that can contribute on a good team is still unseen.

He struggled in the 2017-18 season, but was able to slightly bounce back from the unfortunate year to play the most hockey he has since joining the Canucks. Averaging almost a whole two minutes more than his previous career-high, Hutton was on display this past season for an average of 22:21 per game.

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Mostly out of necessity, the Canucks blue line heavily featured him and the results were poor. While Hutton was on the ice at even-strength, the Canucks had 46.4 percent of the shot attempts, without him they were only able to hold a 47.9 percent of shot attempts. Not a massive difference between the two, but they were still worse at getting the puck towards the net with him on the ice.

There could be loads of potential factors that signal for an upcoming breakout season, but the surrounding players around the defenceman is not one of them.

His most common defensive partner was Erik Gudbranson (553:52), so it’s justifiable to be hemmed in your own zone the whole time of the game. But besides the now-Pittsburgh Penguin, Hutton played with most of the talent the 2018-19 Canucks had to offer.

Troy Stecher and Gudbranson essentially split Hutton’s time — the former playing 514:01 with him during the season — so there is no real balance when it comes to evaluating Hutton’s defensive ability. For the forwards that Hutton was on the ice with, Bo Horvat (396:10), Brock Boeser (310:13), and Elias Pettersson (287:34), all saw significant time with the defenceman.

When he was on the ice with either of those three forwards, Hutton’s shot attempt numbers saw a massive jump. Without them, the Canucks were struggling to get even a decent share of the puck — contributing to his -2.7 CF% relative to his teammates.

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Regardless of his past performance, Hutton’s presence on this blue line might be even more out of necessity than production.

The Canucks currently have five defenceman signed on their NHL roster — Tanev, Hughes, Stecher, Biega, and Brisebois — and the only one with a contract past next year is Hughes on his entry-level contract. Hutton is currently a restricted free agent in need of a contract, but with his arbitration rights in hand, he might be able to get a one-year deal just slightly north of his $2.8-million AAV from his last deal.

Especially with the Canucks as a possible destination for one all-star Swedish defenceman, paying a minimum of his $2.8-million a year might be a hefty portion to take on this team for a middling player.

David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period had a radio hit earlier on Saturday, with his many connections with agents across the league, this can be taken with a grain of salt. But he had important news for what the Canucks might be looking to do this summer.

Whatever big game hunting could entail is beyond everyone, but if they’re looking to bring in a defenceman that would take up a large portion of their remaining cap space as well as the ice-time, Hutton might be heading out of Vancouver.

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No matter who they bring in, Hutton is now in a position that he’s blocking significant development time for some defencemen. But at this point, if management views that Hughes isn’t ready to play a ton of minutes and Olli Juolevi or another young blueliner isn’t quite ready for the NHL, then why not keep Hutton?

There will be significant decisions made in the near future for what the 2019-20 Canucks defenceman group will look like. If veterans like Tanev and Edler end up leaving, then Hutton could provide some safety net with some actual NHL experience, but if they return, then the 26-year-old would be viewed as a player blocking Hughes for some more ice-time.

A lot of moving parts that can determine the player’s future.

His time as a prospect is gone — Ben Hutton has shown what he can bring on an NHL level and it’s not worth it if other more important players are still in Vancouver. Where he is next season will depend on other moves being made, but for all we know he will stay in a limited role as a balance between the two options.

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In the next month or so, the picture will become much clearer and we will see where Hutton lies with this management team.

Read also: The pros and cons of trading Ben Hutton (Stephan Roget)

  • Gino über alles

    Hutton has value as a benchmark for the other LHD that are knocking on the door of making the roster. It’s not unlikely that Hughes and Juolevi both wind up outplaying him and getting his minutes, and I don’t believe that he would be blocking their development as he can always be sat or traded if needs be. They’ll need him at the start of the season as we find out where the rookie defensemen settle in but he’s likely to be outclassed, and soon.

  • Bud Poile

    In two of his four NHL seasons he didn’t score more than one goal.
    Hughes will take the second pairing LHD duties on the PP next season so will Juolevi fill Ben’s spot on an ELC ?
    Will Hutton be gone on or before the day of the draft?

    • TheRealRusty

      Bud “the idiot” Poile does not realize that with the worst travel schedule in the league, the Canucks will need at least 9-11 defensemen to last through the course of a typical regular NHL season.

      • Green Bastard

        Lol Bud the idiot still thinks it’s hockey seasin. He needs to get outside and get a life instead of licking Jim’s fat a$$ lol

        Hutton is going nowhere. Trade Juolevi for a bag of pucks though, kid is a total injury prone bust.

        • petey 40

          haha, fake Green Bastard who hasn’t left his mom’s basement in years, still following Bud like a good pup, jealous of someone else potentially licking Jim’s a$$, talking sh*t about getting a life. HAHAHAHAHAHA. Maybe Ben isn’t going anywhere, but there’s still no hope for you and him. Give it up already

  • Kanuckhotep

    Ben is far from the worst guy on the blue line that they have or ever have had. He played alright last year and until they get someone bonafide better to replace him he might just still be around for awhile yet. A lot depends on who Benning might sign or trade for this summer. It isn’t the end of the world to have Ben back there but you do wonder how long he’ll be here.

    • canuckfan

      Hutton did well last season ate up an awful lot of minutes when the injuries hit but started to fade as he was not used to playing so many hard minutes. Sure he is not the number 1 defender but adds depth and experience I don’t think they should toss him away but shouldn’t be signed for what he got in the last contract as he didn’t live up to what he was being paid when you compare what others made around the league.

  • tyhee

    “There could be loads of potential factors that signal for an upcoming breakout season, but the surrounding players around the defenceman is not one of them.

    His most common defensive partner was Erik Gudbranson (553:52) …”

    I don’t think the data justifies that statement that dismisses surrounding players.

    Since you’ve referred to CF%, I’ll use that as well. Hutton’s CF% while 5 on 5 with Gudbranson was a dismal 42.91. Hutton without Gudbranson, according to Corsica Hockey, was 51.53, better than the team average. Certainly playing with Gudbranson as much as he did hurt his stats this past season, as in seasons before that. They were a poor match.

    Note I’m not attempting to argue Hutton is good, nor that he is bad, just that noting his CF% is below the team average and that his CF% with good forwards was good and other forwards was not doesn’t tell the story very well. With Gudbranson being an offensive black hole, if for instance Hutton spent time with other defencemen and EP40/BB/Bo but with poorer forwards when paired with Gudbranson, then his stats with forwards other than the best forwards would be poor.

    In addition, iirc much of his time with Stecher was when both Tanev and Edler were out so that Hutton-Stecher was the top defensive pairing. While that doesn’t seem like a shutdown pair, wasn’t Green stuck using them against the opposition’s best much of the time?

    “No matter who they bring in, Hutton is now in a position that he’s blocking significant development time for some defencemen.”

    If Hutton isn’t setting much of a bar, then shouldn’t the younger defencemen actually have to show they are better options before bumping him? If Hughes performs as he did in his brief late season trial he’ll get as many minutes as Green figures he can handle, while Sautner, Juolevi and Brisebois really haven’t yet shown they’re good enough to move Hutton out of the way for them.

    • Cageyvet

      Let’s see, I agree with……all of this. You saved me a bunch of typing. Deployed correctly, Hutton is decent. I wouldn’t be at all afraid to move him, but he’s not without value, so no freebies. I see Hutton leaving town as part of a package deal, we’re not likely to upgrade in a straight-up deal.

  • Doodly Doot

    Until Edler signs, and/or JB acquires an upgrade at LHD, he seems like a quality utility piece of the corps and depending on pecking order, always needed depth. If the team negotiates a favourable deal, he could be a minor win as far as signings this summer. Given that MDZ, Guddy and Pouliot are gone, and Juolevi is possibly going to require half a season of top minutes in Utica, he could even progress this year with the right pairing and solid 3rd/4th minutes. Could also easily be sweetener in a deal that is hatching… as I write this! Fun times!

  • MM

    Since he predominantly played with Guddy, I wonder what his stats are Without Guddy. Like what were his stats after he left. Is that sample size large enough? I’d project those stats moving forward and not his whole season. Unfair otherwise.

      • Cageyvet

        Guddy was not good. Hutton was OK. Together, they were an unmitigated disaster, and it looked bad on both of them. Sometimes players combine to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts. Hutton seems to need that formula to be at his best, on his own he’s serviceable, and great return on a 5th round pick, but if we move him it’s no biggie.

  • TD

    Hutton is a third pairing guy that can cover up to second pairing for injuries. The problem in Vancouver is that he was a second behind an injury prone Edler. When Edler was injured, Hutton was playing as the #1 left defence man. That meant all the left d were third pairing or replacement level. It’s no wonder they had a bad record in that context.

    • Goon

      Exactly. Hutton as your 3rd-pairing guy who can do spot duty in the top 4 when injuries strike? Awesome, and $2.8 million/per for that is a totally reasonable contract, too.

      Hutton as your #2 guy who ends up playing 30 games as your #1? Not good.

  • Fred-65

    Hutton is plan B if Juolevi proves to be a bust. I had high hope for Hutton when he first arrived but now it’s a case of what you see is what you get. Circumstances have played a role in his value. I’d like to think he’s a third pairing but circumstances have moved him to a second pairing. Part of his value will be his new Cap hit. Hutton is just OK at this stage of his career, partly due to lackadaisical attitude …. he seems like a fun loving kid rather than a dtermined NHL player IMO

  • Over the last 4 seasons, Hutton is #97 in total points (70) out of 460 defenders. However, his -75 +/- is tied for 2nd worst. The only guys that are worst are OEL (-75) and Ristolainen (-96) but they managed to put up 100 more points than Hutton in about 40 more games each. Even the most maligned Canuck (ex-)defenders such as Gudbranson (-48), Pouliot (-23), Bartkowski (-19), and Sbisa (4) had superior +/-. +/- is weak as a metric but when juxtaposed with Hutton’s career 47% Corsi/Fenwick, it’s safe to say Hutton is a crap defender who can put up a few points, just not enough to compensate for his lack of defense.

    Since Hutton is an RFA for one more season and then UFA, we should try to do a 1-year deal and then rent him at the 2020 trade deadline with retained salary. Hopefully by then, we’ll know if Juolevi, Brisebois, Sautner or Teves can replace him for the 2020-2021 season. They don’t even have to be offensive wizards, they just need to be defensively responsible for us to be ahead without Hutton.

  • Defenceman Factory

    I see Hutton as roughly an average defenseman in the league; a 3-4 guy on a non playoff team and a 5-6 on a contender. There is no doubt his stats suffer from playing against competition beyond where he is best suited and from not having stronger D partners.

    He needs to be re-signed at a reasonable cost (<3.5) for 1 or at most 2 years. Aside from waiting on Juolevi I'm not convinced anyone in Utica or the younger LD prospects are or will be better than Hutton. The UFAs available for around the same cost all have lots of warts. Hutton is reasonable value, tradable and ideally gets pushed down the roster into the bottom pairing by emerging younger players.