Will Butcher to become unrestricted free agent Aug. 15, deal with Avalanche highly unlikely

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."

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