The New Jersey Devils won the Will Butcher Sweepstakes. Earlier this evening, the Devils announced that they have signed the defenseman and 2016-17 Hobey Baker Award winner to a two-year entry level contract. This ELC has an average accrued value of $925,000, which is the maximum for an ELC. The University of Denver alum will now be in the Devils’ organization.
Butcher became a free agent earlier this month as he did not sign with Colorado, the team who originally drafted him back in 2013. There was a little more to this than a young player figuring on hitting the market than sticking with the organization who took a chance on him four years ago. As Mike Chambers reported in the Denver Post back on April 11, 2017:
Near the end of Butcher’s junior season a year ago, the Avalanche told Butcher’s “family adviser” the team was not interested in signing the 5-foot-10, 190-pound defenseman at any point. But that attitude toward Butcher was believed to have emanated from then-coach Patrick Roy, who was also the Avs’ vice president. Roy resigned in August, and the Avs had scouts or team executives at numerous DU home games this season. Assistant Avs general manager Chris MacFarland was at the Frozen Four in Chicago last weekend.
Despite the best efforts of the Avalanche organization, the bridge was burnt. Butcher went on to have a marvelous college career with Denver. Just look at his profile at Elite Prospects and marvel at the accolades he has received in this past season. While Butcher is not particularly large, there would definitely be teams interested in an offensively-skilled defenseman with that kind of resume. And they were as Butcher had his choice of teams to decide. The rumored final four included Los Angeles, Buffalo, Las Vegas, and New Jersey. After over a week and a half, Butcher chose New Jersey. The Devils won.
Needless to say, this is good news. I wrote back at the end of July that the Devils should pursue him. The Devils clearly did that and succeeded. As the ELC limits how much money and term can be offered, I’d like to think the appeal for Butcher would be where he could play. Hence, teams like Las Vegas, Buffalo, and New Jersey - all teams that could use talent on the back end - were in the cards. It feels good as a fan to see a free agent with a good amount of interest choose the Devils. It is even better knowing that he is an offensively-minded defenseman and the team absolutely needs those kinds of defenders.
It is not a slam dunk that Butcher will be on the New Jersey roster to start this coming season. There are plenty of defensemen on the roster competing for a few spots. However, should he display in training camp and preseason games why he won so many accolades in college, then I think it is fair to think he will be playing against his former organization on October 7. Personally, I think he has the proverbial inside track to make the roster. We’ll see how it goes. What’s the limit for him? Possibly playing on the top two pairings. Could we see it during the season? Provided he brings the goods, then sure.
All the same, tonight was a good night for the Devils. Butcher chose them. The Devils signed him to an ELC. The blueline, on paper, appears to be stronger for it. Watch this video and get hype for preseason.
Please leave your thoughts about the signing in the comments. Thank you for reading.