Will Butcher, Defence, University Of Denver (NCAA)
January 6, 1995 | Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, USA
5-10, 190 lbs. | Shoots Left
Will Butcher, the 2017 Hobey Baker Award winner playing for the University of Denver, opted not to sign a contract with the Colorado Avalanche. As of August 15th, Butcher became an unrestricted free agent. In testing the open market, Butcher will be greeted by a significant number of suitors, including the Montreal Canadiens.
Selected in the 5th round, 123rd overall in 2013 by the Colorado Avalanche, Butcher was named the top player in men’s college hockey last season and captained the University of Denver to the national championship, scoring seven goals, adding 30 assists in 43 games. He registered 28 goals and 75 assists in during his 158 game NCAA career.
The 22-year-old defenceman, who has been commended for his strong two-way game, skating, hockey sense and leadership, is eligible for a two-year contract worth $925,000 per season, plus a maximum of $2.85 million in performance bonuses. This is the same contract that was given to Jimmy Vesey last season by the New York Rangers after the Nashville Predators failed to sign their 2012, 3rd round pick.
After trading top defensive prospect Mikhail Sergachev to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Jonathan Drouin prior to the 2017 NHL Draft, the Canadiens could use a player such as Will Butcher to fill the gap with the loss of their 2016 1st round pick. The Canadiens did however use four of their seven draft picks this year to select defencemen, Josh Brook (56th), Scott Walford (68th), Cale Fleury (87th) and Jarret Tyszka (149th). They also have Noah Juulsen, a 2015 1st round pick, along with Victor Mete, Simon Bourque and Brett Lernout in their prospect pool.
— Will Butcher (@WillButcher4) April 10, 2017
With $8.4 million in cap space, the Montreal Canadiens are positioned to make a strong offer. The prospect of playing in a legendary hockey market, playing in front of the world’s top goaltender and learning from Shea Weber, one of the best defenders in the league, should all be key selling points to encourage Butcher to sign with the Canadiens.
With the gap created on the left side with the departure of Andrei Markov, Butcher may also have the opportunity to slot as one of the starting six defenders as early as this season with a strong showing at training camp, injecting some youth into the Canadiens blue line. If he does select the Montreal Canadiens but does not make the team out of training camp, Butcher would likely play big minutes for the Canadiens new farm team, the Laval Rocket, and could be among first options for a call up if an injury occurs at the NHL level.
— Jimmy Murphy (@MurphysLaw74) August 15, 2017
This week, sportswriter Jimmy Murphy caused a stir on social media among Canadiens fans suggesting that the team was not just a fringe player in the Butcher sweepstakes. At this point there doesn’t seem to be a front-runner. The Canadiens, New Jersey Devils, Buffalo Sabres, Vegas Golden Knights, Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets have all been linked to him.
Given that Marc Bergevin still seems focused on adding a big name to the offence, it is possible that an offer is made. With all of the attention surrounding the Hobey Baker Award winner, one thing is clear: Bergevin will not be able to delay a decision to October, his preferred path with Andrei Markov. It would not surprise us to see Butcher sign with the Devils, Penguins or Jackets.
But, as Bergevin himself has said, expect the unexpected.