|Did Hutchinson ever fully recover from that knee injury on Dec. 1st?|
Role: Offensive Defenseman, Power play specialist
Contract Status: Unrestricted Free Agent on July 1st
Notables: 31 years old, 6-2, 193 lbs, Right handed shot
Season stats: 54 games played - 7G, 29A, Even, 29 PIM
Playoff stats: 12 games played - 0G, 5A, Even, 0 PIM
There's no doubting Andrew Hutchinson's offensive ability. After opening the season with the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and registering a goal and an assist on opening night, Hutchinson was recalled to Pittsburgh where he would play in five games and register one assist and a -3 rating. He returned to the AHL and got right back to where he left off, recording two more multi-point games to finish October with six points (2G-4A) in three games. The offensively minded defenseman remained a regular on the scoresheet in November with a goal and six assists in 13 games but in the first game of December tragedy struck.
Hutchinson hurt his knee, missed the next 20 games and never seemed to fully recover. Sure he finished the season with 36 points, nearly equal to his offensive production through 74 games last season with the Texas Stars, but it was evident down the stretch and in the playoffs that Hutchinson was not the same player he was in the beginning of the season. After recording 14 points in his first 17 games before injury, Hutchinson's production diminished, especially at even strength. Only five of his last 20 points were at even strength and all five of his playoff points were with the man advantage. Hutchinson's lack of even strength production is another reason why he had the worst +/- rating of the defenseman (Even). Steve Wagner had the 2nd lowest +/- at +16.
It's tough to blame Hutchinson for an injury but it has to be in the minds of the front office in deciding whether or not to bring him back next season. Will he be at 100% health? At 31 years old, injuries don't heal the same as they would in a younger player. He was the highest paid WBS Penguins player at $250,000 last season and would probably command a similar salary. With Robert Bortuzzo, Brian Strait and Carl Sneep returning and QMJHL standout Simon Despres likely joining the team next season the Pens have four solid options on the blue line. Is it worth bringing back Hutchinson?