Assuming he does not sign with the Colorado Avalanche — and it appears as if he will not — 2017 Hobey Baker winner Will Butcher will be a highly sought after target on the open market when he becomes an unrestricted free agent on August 15. His agent has already said he would listen to an offer from the back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, while teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings figure to be interested.
Pretty much every team could use a young, puck-moving presence on its blue line.
On Saturday, CSNNE’s Joe Haggerty argued that the Bruins should not be one of the teams interested in making a play for the 22-year-old rearguard even though the team has a need for a left shot on its blue line.
What the Bruins don’t need is another undersized, unproven youngster on their back end while 21-year-old Brandon Carlo enters his second full NHL season, and 20-year-old McAvoy readies for his first full pro hockey season in Boston. Instead, they really could have used a battle-tested, grizzled veteran D-man on the left side capable of being an on-ice tutor as McAvoy’s D-partner this season, and that’s what they were unsuccessfully looking for via free agency or trade earlier this summer.
He also mentions the collection of prospects knocking on the door as leaving little room.
Even with all of that, the Bruins were one of the first teams I thought of when it came to potential landing spots for Butcher. Due to the exits of long-time veterans like Johnny Boychuk and Dennis Seidenberg in recent years, the trade of Dougie Hamilton, and the fact that Zdeno Chara is closer to the end of his career than his peak their defense has taken a pretty significant fall in recent seasons and gone from being its greatest strength to, at times, its biggest weakness.
To be fair, the emergence of Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy as young players on that defense gives them a lot of hope for the future, and Torey Krug has become a tremendous point-producer on the back end. Adding a prospect like Butcher to that group would give them a pretty strong collection of young, cheap puck-movers, and that isn’t a bad way to try and win in today’s NHL. After all, the team that just won the past two Stanley Cups wasn’t exactly full of rugged, battle-tested veterans.
Basically, the Bruins shouldn’t let the fact they already have some prospects in the system and similar players on the roster prevent them from taking a shot at adding a player like Butcher. Not all of your prospects are going to pan out and you can never really have too much talent. And when you have a chance to add a talented young player for practically nothing it is a possibility that is always worth exploring.