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Sabres poised to sign Carter Hutton when free agency opens

The NHL's goaltending carousel is already spinning and numerous reports say it's going to land the Buffalo Sabres' way.

When free agency starts Sunday at noon, the Sabres are expected to have their starting goalie when they sign St. Louis Blues backup Carter Hutton. It's expected to be a three-year deal, pegged by NHL sources in the neighborhood of $10 million to $11 million. Longtime St. Louis-based reporter Andy Strickland of Fox Sports Midwest is among those locking up Hutton to Buffalo Friday morning.

Colorado's Jonathan Bernier, another potential Sabres target, is expected to join the Detroit Red Wings while longtime Carolina netminder Cam Ward seems ticketed for Chicago.

The Sabres and New York Islanders, also in need of a starter, were most focused on Hutton. Boston, Carolina, Chicago and Detroit also checked in on him.

Hutton is 32 and didn't make the NHL until he was a 27-year-old with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013. He has never played more than 40 games in a season, which makes him a risk as a starter for 50-55 games, but has put up excellent numbers the last five years in Nashville and St. Louis.

(Click here for Hutton's career stats)

Hutton is coming off his best season, fortuitous timing given the thin nature of the free-agent goalie market this summer. He went 17-7-3 for the Blues with a sparkling 2.09 goals-against average, .931 save percentage and three shutouts. He was particularly strong at home (10-5-0, 1.83, .940).

One of Hutton's shutouts came Feb. 3 in KeyBank Center against the Sabres, as he made 27 saves in a 1-0 St. Louis win. That game was scoreless until defenseman Carl Gunnarsson scored with 5:41 to play.

Hutton, who visited Buffalo on Wednesday, is expected to get the bulk of the work in the Sabres net in 2018-19, replacing the departed Robin Lehner. Linus Ullmark is slated to graduate from Rochester to the backup role in place of Chad Johnson.

Lehner, who was turned into an unrestricted free agent when the Sabres did not give him a qualifying offer by Monday's deadline, reportedly visited Detroit earlier this week but Bernier seemingly noses him out of a job there. Lehner's best bet may be replacing Ward in Carolina and battling Scott Darling for the No. 1 role.

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