Last night, the Will Butcher sweepstakes officially came to an end, as the free-agent defenseman signed a two-year, entry-level deal with the New Jersey Devils.
Butcher, who became a free agent earlier this month, had a number of teams trying to bring him into the fold. In the end, he and his agent, Brian Bartlett, decided that joining the Devils was the way to go (the Sabres and Golden Knights were two of the other teams he reportedly considered).
“It was a difficult decision for Will because a number of teams did a great job of presenting how they could help Will grow into an NHL player,” Bartlett told NHL.com. “Ultimately, Will and his family felt like New Jersey provided a good mix of opportunity, coaching, development, style of play, and returning players.”
The 22-year-old isn’t a lock to make the roster out of training camp, but New Jersey’s lack of depth definitely won’t hurt his chances.
Andy Greene, Ben Lovejoy, John Moore, Dalton Prout and restricted free agent Damon Severson will probably all be on the opening-night roster, which means the sixth and seventh spots on the depth chart are still up for grabs.
Butcher’s long-term potential is still up for debate, but his head coach at the University of Denver, Jim Montgomery, believes he has the ability to play a similar style to former Montreal Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov.
“Markov made great decisions with the puck and was really good on the power play,” Montgomery said. “I don’t see [Butcher] being able to play 25 minutes a night right away because this is the best league in the world and he’s going to have to adjust to the size and speed of the forwards he’ll be defending.
“But do I think he can go out and run a power play right now? I do think he can do that. Can he run a No. 1 power play? I don’t know, but I know he has the potential to grow into that.”