Though he’s not able to actually sign a contract anywhere until tomorrow, Will Butcher has already set up some visits. Mike Chambers of the Denver Post reports that the DU Pioneers’ captain will meet with the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils and Vegas Golden Knights among others tomorrow after becoming a free agent. Butcher has been previously linked—however tenuously—to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks.
Butcher has said he won’t rule out Colorado in his free agency, but after being snubbed by the team (and specifically then head coach Patrick Roy) in 2015, still seems like a long shot to end up in Denver. Instead, two of his three teams are obvious choices if he wants to contribute right away. Buffalo and New Jersey both have their eyes set on the playoffs and need huge defensive upgrades if they’re going to get there, and Vegas is looking for core players to build their team around. The 22-year old Butcher will be signing a two-year entry-level deal wherever he signs, though bonus structures can vary.
He and he agent have been clear that immediate opportunity is not the only thing Butcher is looking for, and a winning organization will also be considered, but playing big minutes in your first two years is the only way to get a big raise after your entry-level deal expires. In New Jersey and Buffalo he’d be given that opportunity.
Even though Vegas is the new kid on the block and is probably after any premium free agent, there doesn’t seem to be a great fit there. The Golden Knights already have seven or eight NHL-level left-handed defensemen in their system, and if they can’t move any they’re already in for a roster crunch at the start of the year. Butcher will be waiver exempt when he enters the league and would be the easy choice for them to move to the minors.