On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Kings agreed to terms with unrestricted free agent Ben Hutton. The deal is a one-year, $1.5 million contract, as announced by general manager Rob Blake.
The organization was one of four teams (Minnesota Wild, New York Rangers, and Detroit Red Wings) interested in the 6-foot-2 defenseman. Prior to the deal, Hutton was drafted 147th overall by the Vancouver Canucks in 2012 and spent four seasons with the franchise. Hutton recorded 70 points (11 goals, 59 assists) and a minus-75 rating in 276 games. He also averaged a 91.5 team on-ice save percentage at even strength throughout the four campaigns.
The Canucks did not make Hutton a qualifying offer in June, which resulted in him becoming a UFA. With preseason underway, it seemed as though the Kings were set in stone with their current roster, but with injuries sustained to Derek Forbort (back) and Paul LaDue (knee), the signing was necessary.
From V-Town to the City of Angels
The Kings and Hutton were in contact during the offseason about a potential fit for the Ontario native in Los Angeles. As the roster began to come together, the team remained in touch with Hutton after the talks subsided. Head coach Todd McLellan voiced his concerns at the position with Forbort and LaDue questionable to start the 2019 season.
“With our situation here, with LaDue still not being ready to play and Forbort injured and struggling to get healthy right now and no one has any idea on his timeline,” McLellan said to The Athletic’s Lisa Dillman. “A position we thought we might have a little depth in, all of a sudden it’s gone quite quickly.” (from ‘The Ben Hutton signing, explained, and young players who stood out for the Kings in Arizona,’ The Athletic– 9/18/19)
Hutton’s addition now brings potential help on the blue line. His talent and knowledge of the game makes him capable of playing multiple roles on the ice, whether it’s handing the puck off to his teammates or taking matters into his own hands. He also has the ability to create deadly scoring opportunities like the one below.
“I remember him as a steady player — your prototypical NHL D-man that can move the puck and be part of the offense a little bit,” Kings assistant coach Trent Yawney said to The Athletic’s Lisa Dillman. “It’s good for us, and he’s a lefty, too. And that helps.”
With only entering his fifth season in the league, Hutton also has international experience to add to his hockey résumé. The defenseman represented Team Canada in the 2016 International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship after finishing up his rookie season (25 PTS in 75 GP). He recorded a lone assist and a plus-three rating in five games en route to the title.
As for more recently, Hutton is coming off a productive 2018-19 season despite registering a career-low minus-23 rating. He tallied a career-high 55 hits and tied a career-best in goals with five. He also registered 102 blocks and 27 takeaways in 69 games.
Hutton now joins a very competitive and complicated battle with his new teammates for a spot on the starting roster. Among the eight defensemen competing for the job are LaDue, Joakim Ryan, Kurtis MacDermid, Sean Walker and Matt Roy.
Per his agent, Hutton flew out to Los Angeles Wednesday and is expected to practice with the Kings on Thursday. Whether or not he’ll dress for Thursday’s home matchup against the Vegas Golden Knights is still unknown.
Sara Biela is a Los Angeles Kings contributor for The Hockey Writers. Biela graduated from San Jose State University in 2019 with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism. She covered SJSU Athletics and the San Jose Sharks through the college’s student-run sports-media publication, The Spear.