Photo credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Our friends at BSN Denver have reported that 2017 Hobey Baker Award winner Will Butcher has decided to wait until August 15th, when he becomes an unrestricted free agent, to sign with an NHL team. DU’s prized defenseman and captain for the 2016-17 National Championship winning team was drafted by Denver’s own Colorado Avalanche in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.
After the Avs decided against offering Butcher a contract after his stellar junior year campaign that ended at the Frozen Four in Tampa, it seemed the writing was on the wall. In a sense, about a year ago, the Avs sent Butcher a message that reverberated loud and clear: they didn’t want him.
“We appreciate what Colorado has done, and we’re not ruling out the Avalanche as a potential destination. But we just feel there will be other opportunities that should be explored too, and therefore we’re going (to the 15th),” Butcher’s agent, Brian Bartlett, told BSNDenver.
This marks the second year in a row that the Hobey Baker winner decided to wait until August 15 to become an unrestricted free agent. Last year’s winner Jimmy Vesey did the same thing when he decided against signing with the Nashville Predators in favor of the New York Rangers.
Avs fans will and should be disappointed in the decision, but Butcher should be praised for standing up for his own best interests. This situation was poorly handled by the Avalanche front office from the get-go. While the person responsible may no longer be with the franchise, it’s difficult to blame Butcher for deciding to test the open market.
Though the Avs still have exclusive negotiating rights to Butcher for the next three weeks, come August 15, Butcher’s name will be one of the most coveted on the free agency market. He may still spend some time developing in the AHL, but you can be sure he’ll see significant time in the NHL much sooner than later.
Sure, Butcher’s camp hasn’t ruled out signing with the Avs, but it’s extremely likely that we’ve seen the last of Butcher in a sweater for a team from Denver.