Bruins Notebook: Would Ben Hutton solve some questions on Boston’s blue line; Hoffman signs with Blues

(Photo by Juan Ocampo/NHLI via Getty Images)

With NHL training camps slated to open up across North America as early as Thursday for several clubs, the race is on for a still sizable pool of free agents to find a home before full rosters hit the ice.

Given the numerous question marks surrounding the left side of the Bruins' D corps, it wouldn't come as much of a surprise if Don Sweeney and Co. were perusing through the crop of available blueliners in search of some stability — especially given that there is still no clarity on Zdeno Chara's future, whether it be in Boston or potentially elsewhere for the 2021 season.

Even though the Bruins missed out on some of the more established left-shot D that were available when the free-agent feeding frenzy commenced back in October (T. J. Brodie, Erik Gustafsson), there still are a couple of serviceable — if not intriguing — options available that could ease some of the worries about a Bruins defense that might poised to rely heavily on 23-and-under products like Jeremy Lauzon, Jakub Zboril and Urho Vaakanainen in the coming months.

One name that has been linked to the Bruins is Ben Hutton, with David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period reporting that Boston remains as one of the teams interested in the left-shot D in what stands as the final stretch of the 2020 offseason.

Hutton, a University of Maine product (2012-15), has still yet to be scooped up by a team after appearing in 65 games with the Kings during the 2019-20 campaign — recording 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) while averaging 18:16 of ice time. The 6-foot-2, 206-pound skater spent the previous four seasons of his NHL career with the Canucks, posting 70 points in 276 games out in Vancouver.

The 27-year-old Hutton hasn't had much luck when it comes to skating on successful clubs during his five years up in the NHL ranks, with both the Canucks and Kings failing to clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs during any of those seasons in which Hutton patrolled the blue line. As is the case for most players saddled on poor clubs, it can tough to size up a skater like Hutton, given that a glance at the underlying numbers for most Canucks from 2015-19 don't exactly paint a rosy picture of said individual.

And yet, as much as Hutton struggled to gain traction during his four years with the Canucks, the numbers following a promising campaign out in L.A. might make Hutton an intriguing target for the Bruins — at least in terms of a viable depth option on a defense loaded with question marks.