According to Adrian Dater of BSNDenver, reigning Hobey Baker award winner Will Butcher will not sign with the Colorado Avalanche before the August 15th deadline, and instead will become a free agent. Dater quotes Butcher’s agent Brian Bartlett as saying they will head to free agency but are “not ruling out the Avalanche as a potential destination.” Like Jimmy Vesey last summer, Butcher will be granted free agency this summer after completing his four seasons in the NCAA.
A fifth-round pick by the Avalanche in 2013, the 22-year old Butcher has developed into a complete two-way defender in the college ranks capable of putting up big point totals and logging huge amounts of ice time. For the University of Denver this year, Butcher put up 37 points in 43 games as a key piece on the nation’s best team. The Pioneers would end up winning the NCAA Championship over UMD on the back of an incredible performance from Jarid Lukosevicius—who scored three goals in a single period to put his team ahead for good—but rode Butcher all year as the best player in the country.
Given the captain’s “C” in his senior season, Butcher was awarded nearly every accolade available for a defenseman including First Team All-American, Conference Player of the Year and Frozen Four Tournament All-Star. His collegiate career ends with 28 goals, 75 assists and 103 points, all three of which will put him in the top-10 all-time among Denver defensemen.
There is no guarantee that Butcher will make an impact at the next level, but he will certainly be pursued by teams around the league hoping his up-tempo style will translate to NHL success right away. He’ll have to sign a two-year entry-level contract, but the bonus structures will be part of what can woo him to a certain market. Teammates Troy Terry, Henrik Borgstrom and Dylan Gambrell are draft picks of Anaheim, Florida and San Jose respectively, though their may not be any leverage gained there since each one could also go this route and become a free agent when their college time is up. For what it’s worth, Butcher is a Wisconsin native who played in Madison growing up before joining the US Development Program and then the collegiate ranks.