The highly-publicized wait is over as Will Butcher will be joining New Jersey, the Devils announced. The two-year deal is worth the maximum allowable base salary on an entry-level deal of $925K. Andrew Gross of The Record adds that he can add an additional $850K in performance bonuses each year. Butcher became an unrestricted free agent on August 16th after he chose to not sign with Colorado, who drafted him in the fifth round (123rd overall) in 2013.
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Butcher played out his four seasons of eligibility at the University of Denver and saved his best play for last. Named the captain for his senior season, the 22-year-old posted a career high 37 points (7-30-37) in 43 games while helping lead the Pioneers to the NCAA Championship.
As a result of his strong play, Butcher received plenty of accolades, including First Team All-American, NCHC Player of the Year, Frozen Four Tournament All-Star, and, most notably, the Hobey Baker Award which is given to the NCAA’s best player.
Although his agent Brian Bartlett had stated on quite a few occasions that Butcher wouldn’t necessarily look to go to a team that would give him an NHL spot right away, he’ll certainly have a chance to make an immediate impact with the Devils. He’s undersized at just 5’10 but if his ability to run a power play translates quickly to the pro game, he’ll stand a pretty good chance of making their opening night roster.
As many as a dozen teams expressed an interest in signing Butcher, including the Blue Jackets, Kings, Golden Knights, Penguins, and Sabres. Of those teams, he visited Buffalo, Los Angeles, and Vegas earlier this week.
Coincidentally, the two most prominent college free agents wound up switching teams in the end as center Alex Kerfoot, originally drafted by New Jersey, signed with the Avalanche earlier this week.