Will Butcher, the 2017 Hobey Baker Award winner from the University of Denver, has officially decided to hit the market as an unrestricted free agent Aug. 15, BSN Denver can reveal.

“We informed the Avalanche of that decision,” Butcher’s agent, Brian Bartlett, told BSN Denver. “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).”

The Avalanche still have exclusive negotiating rights to Butcher until Aug. 15, but that is a Potemkin Village at this point. On that date, Butcher can take offers from any NHL team, and there are expected to be several suitors. The Avalanche can still make him offers, just like any other team, but at this point it’s fair to ask: If Butcher didn’t take any of the Avs’ offers before, what makes anyone think he’ll take one later?

Butcher was drafted by the Avs in 2013 (123rd overall), but never could agree on a contract with the team. He was given a formal offer by the Avs this spring, believed to be a two-year deal, but Butcher did not accept it. Whether he held a grudge against the Avs for not formally offering him a contract the year before, after his junior season, is something that has been speculated about.

After a Hobey Baker and NCAA championship season, Butcher’s stock obviously went up. Now that he can be a free agent, and while his status as an entry-level player limits what he can make as a base salary, teams can sweeten the pot with offers of bonus incentives. As a two-way D-man with strong leadership qualities, he should command a nice salary soon.

“He’s in a unique position, so he has the opportunity to take advantage of it,” Bartlett said. “Those things don’t come around too often.”

Adrian Dater

Adrian Dater is a staff writer with BSNDenver. He started his journalism career way, way back in 1988 as a proofreader with the Concord Monitor as a kid out of college (Keene State College), and has wended its way since with a 25-year stop at The Denver Post, 20 of which were spent as the beat writer of the Colorado Avalanche, from its inception in 1995. Adrian has also worked as a primary hockey writer with Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News, The Hockey News, Versus.com and Bleacher Report. He is the author of seven sports books, including the best-selling “Blood Feud: Colorado Avalanche v. Detroit Red Wings, The Inside Story of Pro Sports’ Nastiest and Best Rivalry of Its Era” and “100 Things Avalanche Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die”, which was published in October, 2016.

  • Tom Schultz

    No reason for him to sign and you can bet he wasn’t happy about not being offered a contract last year. I’d probably be doing the same thing if I was in his position…

    • Wildcat84A

      Lol, this narrative just keeps getting furthered. He wasn’t ready for a contract last year and wanted to return to DU. No big deal though, he’s not that good.

  • Cmd Beaker

    His contract is limited by NHL Entry-Level restrictions. This move isn’t about money, at least not in the first two years.

    • Adrian Dater

      Yes, I knew that, but lazily didn’t narrow it down on first reference. Thanks for keeping me on my toes.

  • Ilkin Gambar

    Came here to read FF’s comment, leaving disappointed.

  • bob_w

    He knows what the Avs are offering and he knows that with the Avs he would be playing in the AHL. Perhaps some other team would offer more in incentives or need him to play in the NHL sooner. Most likely this just gives him some choice of which organization he will start his career.

  • Luke

    good for Butcher playing the field. It’s nice to be in a position to choose from a bunch of possibilities.

    Good for the Avs not stressing about a small-ish defenseman who’s not a great skater and would have made zero impact to the club this year.

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