Niklas Hjalmarsson traded, Brian Campbell retires and Johnny Oduya signs elsewhere. This sounds like a horror story for Blackhawks fans screaming for defensive depth after last season. There is a new and younger option that will soon hit the market that the organization could explore, Will Butcher.
Butcher is coming off his senior season in which he won the Hobey Baker award as the best NCAA men’s hockey player and captured the national title with Denver University. He was a two-time captain and tallied 7g and 30a in 43 games last season on the blue line.
The 2013 fifth round draft pick by the Colorado Avalanche has his rights expire on August 15. Instead of signing with the mess that is the Avalanche, he has decided to test free agency.
The best part for the Blackhawks is that there can’t be a real bidding war for Butcher, because he is limited to an entry level contract. At most he could receive $925,000 in salary and up to $2.85 million in bonuses.
He is only 22 years old and coming off a very successful college career that saw him develop immensely. Scouts see him as an offensive-minded player who can move the puck but is also responsible on defense. The left-handed shot was a key piece in the nation’s number one power play unit on the way to the national championship.
Of course there is no guarantee that Butcher will pan out in the NHL but he provides options. He is a relatively cheap shot with upside. The Blackhawks are already spending $4 million per season on 24 year old Connor Murphy who has played four average NHL seasons but has “potential.”
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