Will Butcher decided not to sign an entry-level contract with the Colorado Avalanche, and is set to become a UFA on August 15
Will Butcher was silencing the critics for the past four seasons a the University of Denver. After a strong performance at the U-18 World Junior Championships in 2013, Butcher was selected in the fifth round by the Colorado Avalanche with the 123rd overall pick.
He went on to represent the United States at the U-20 World Junior Championships two years in a row, before finishing his last two years with the Pioneers. Butcher scored nine goals with 23 assists in 39 games as a junior, and followed that up with seven goals and 30 assists in 43 games as a senior.
Butcher was the captain of the team in 2016-17 and led them to a NCAA National Championship this season. After his senior season, it appears the defenseman is electing free agency over signing with the Avalanche. That’s his right and it’s one of the few rights drafted players have. So it’s hard to blame Butcher for taking advantage of one of the few things he’s allowed to do.
Massive Blow for the Colorado Avalanche
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The Avalanche are a good team on paper, but lack quality depth at forward and strong defensemen. They are inconsistent in the offensive zone, and let in far too many goals on defense. Butcher, a big-game player with plenty of potential, could have been the answer to the Avalanche’s defensive woes.
He can create offensive chances, but plays a strong two-way game as well. He is a great leader, and continues to win at every level of hockey. The Avalanche need a major boost to help their skilled players. A top-tier prospect like Butcher may have created some much-needed chemistry for their scoring lines. After opting for free agency, Butcher put a dagger in the hearts of Avalanche fans everywhere.
The NHL is your Oyster
Defensemen are a tough commodity to find in the NHL. You either draft well, or pay the price through trades. The Avalanche drafted well, but are paying the price anyway.
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The Calgary Flames could add to their youthful roster and embarrassment of riches on their blue line. Johnny Gaudreau can help recruit the fellow American. If he is looking to go to a contender, the Flames are making all the right moves. If Canada is not in the cards, Jack Eichel and the Buffalo Sabres could be a great new home. They have a balanced team, and could use the added skill from the blueline.
If not the Flames or Sabres, the Boston Bruins are a great fit. Zdeno Chara would be a solid mentor, and the Bruins have the ability to succeed now. The same can be said for the Chicago Blackhawks and Duncan Keith, but they have limited salary cap room to work with. The Washington Capitals are an obvious fit for him as well, and they can probably give him the playing time he covets.
Regardless of where he lands, Butcher is the biggest college prospect to hit the open market since Jimmy Vesey last season. Vesey burned the Nashville Predators, and went on to sign with the New York Rangers. Unlucky for him, the Predators won the Western Conference. Hopefully Butcher can avoid similar unluckiness, as he looks for a new home after August 15.