The 2017 Hobey Baker winner is on the market, and is slated to talk with several teams including the Vegas Golden Knights, per a report from the Denver Post.
The University of Denver’s Will Butcher, a 22-year-old defenseman, was drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in 2013 but will let their rights to him lapse at 9 p.m. tonight.
The Post’s report states that Butcher will speak with the Golden Knights as well as the Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils once he is a free man. Unlike the case of Jimmy Vesey, where there was no tangible bad blood between him and his drafting organization (the Nashville Predators), Butcher was spurned by the Avalanche after his junior season when Patrick Roy expressed no interest in signing the young blue-liner. From the linked Post article:
Butcher tallied 28-75—103 in 158 games at the University of Denver and served as the captain of the 2016-17 NCAA champion Pioneers. The left-shot defenseman was a plus-player his past three years and did a great job of staying out of the box, accumulating just 53 penalty minutes in his collegiate career. Butcher has also served as the alternate captain for both the USA Under-18 and Under-20 teams.
While he is a bit undersized at 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, he fits the mold of the modern-day offensive defenseman — quick on his feet and sharp with the puck. While most players who play all four years of college are not slated for first-line or top-pairing futures, it would not be unreasonable to see Butcher as anywhere from a No. 3 to No. 5 defenseman. Further, it is likely that he could see time on a power play unit, as he led the Pioneers with 18 power play points this past season.
In fact, if there is one demerit on his college resume, it is that he did not progress much as an even-strength player between his junior and senior seasons, tallying 19 EV points in both campaigns despite playing in more games this past year.
Despite the obvious upside here, one has to worry if general manager George McPhee has a hoarding problem. Our own Mike Hannah will dig into it shortly, but there is a frightening abundance of defensemen on the Knights and just six spots in the lineup. While Butcher likely has a ceiling higher than most of the current VGK d-men, it would behoove him and the team to have him begin his professional career in the AHL. Not that Butcher would mind, as his agent has stated that immediate big league playing time is not necessary.
For more on Butcher, SB Nation’s Satchel Price gave an excellent rundown of him and his situation earlier this morning, including the list of other teams he has been linked to, including the Penguins, Blackhawks, Red Wings, Wild and Maple Leafs.