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Michael Hutchinson might call Winnipeg home, but he won’t be stopping pucks here.
Hutchinson, an unrestricted free agent, signed a one-year, $1.3-million contract with the Florida Panthers today.
The Panthers already have veteran Roberto Luongo and James Reimer under contract for the 2018-19 NHL season, so Hutchinson is probably destined for the club’s AHL affiliate, the Springfield Thunderbirds.
The 28-year-old goalie, who spent five seasons in the Jets organization, said a return to the Jets wasn’t in the cards.
“As far as I know, the Jets didn’t reach out at all. I’m really happy with the deal I got in Florida and I’m looking forward to the opportunity there,” he said, adding he had spoken to several teams but settled on the Panthers. He also mentioned relishing a chance to watch and learn from “a future hall-of-famer (Luongo).”
Engaged to be married to a Winnipeg woman later this summer, Hutchinson considers the city his home, he said.
Over five seasons with the Jets, Hutchinson appeared in 102 games and was 43-39-11 with a 2.65 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage.
He was displaced last summer when Winnipeg inked Steve Mason to a two-year contract. With a glut of goalies, Hutchinson was sent to the Manitoba Moose of the AHL. In 26 games, he was 17-5-1 with a 2.08 GAA and a .935 S%. He also suffered a concussion last year during a brief stint with the Jets, and repeatedly refused interview requests when he was playing for the Moose.
“Last year was an interesting year. It was frustrating but at the same time I had a lot of success, too. So, there was some good and some bad,” said Hutchinson, who was named AHL goalie of the month last November and was named to the AHL All-Star Game.
Mason was dealt to Montreal on Saturday and has since been bought out by the Canadiens, leaving him and unrestricted free agent.
The Jets signed goalie Laurent Brossoit to a one-year contract worth $650,000 today.
Huchinson said he enjoyed his time with the Jets organization.
“I had a great time with the Jets. I made a lot of good friendships, so it’s going to be tough to leave those guys. It’ll be weird going to training camp and not seeing and recognizing every single person there,” he said. “The city of Winnipeg was awesome. I can’t say enough good things about what happened in Winnipeg.”
Assistant sports editor
Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).