Butcher's decision likely to come in another week

August 22, 2017
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It has been nearly a full week since defenseman Will Butcher hit the free agent market after completing his senior season at he University of Denver. The 2017 Hobey Baker Award winner has reportedly had talks with a dozen NHL teams about signing an entry-level contract, and is expected to cut down the list to three or four teams.

College FA defenseman Will Butcher will trim 12 interested teams to 3 or 4 to visit. Could take a week or so.

— Kevin Allen (@ByKevinAllen) August 21, 2017

According to WIVB's Nick Filipowski, Butcher had met with the Buffalo Sabres last week and was expected to meet with more teams this week. Some of the other teams that had reported interest in Butcher includes the Vegas Golden Knights, New Jersey Devils and Pittsburgh Penguins.

For what it's worth, here's Hobey Baker Award winner Will Butcher at DIA Friday sporting #Sabres bag. My guess is he was in Buffalo #Avs pic.twitter.com/EjjEj3XxdX

— Mike Chambers (@MikeChambers) August 19, 2017

At first, it was thought that this process could only take about a week for Butcher to make his decision. As it turns out, the wait will continue as Butcher evaluates all possibilities.

"I think it's going to take about another week," Butcher's player agent Steve Bartlett said with Andrew Peters and Craig Rivet on The Instigators on Tuesday. "We started out with a very broad number of teams that had called and expressed interest, we went to a process of phone interviews, and then we started to work it down to a manageable number that he thought offered what he was looking for. He's going to take this week to follow up with some of those teams, and ultimately make, what would be, a very difficult decision choice for him."

 The 22-year old put up a very good senior season en route to the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey's top player of the year. He scored seven goals and registered 37 points in 43 games, and captained the Pioneers to their eighth NCAA Division-I men's ice hockey championship.

Teams across the league know what Butcher brings to the table as an offensive-minded defenseman with great vision, skating, and the ability to generate offense from the blue line.

"His pedigree is very strong, and I think teams look at him as a guy who potentially can be that powerplay quarterback or somebody that can really help them on the offensive side of the game," Bartlett said. "I think teams may show him a depth chart with eight defenseman, but they don't have a defenseman like him. I think they're trying to sell what he brings to the table and what that fit might be."

"He's looking for the best fit for his long-term success both personally, and as a team where he can grow with a team and be in a position to play, what he hopes, will be a major part of that team going forward. These are really difficult things for anybody to look at when everybody makes very compulsive pitches in terms of why they like him; why they think he's the perfect fit for their team, or their depth chart or their city. I don't envy him making the decision, and he's going to have some difficult decisions to make. There's going to be some good options out there."

If the Sabres do manage to get Butcher signed to his entry-level deal, he would add to a defensive group that looks a lot different from the 2016-17 season. He would joins players like Marco Scandella, Nathan Beaulieu, Victor Antipin and others who come in to the organization for the first time this season.

"At the start of the summer, we tried to look and improve our defense corps throughout the organization," Sabres general manager Jason Botterill said at the Amerk Alumni Golf Tournament on Tuesday. "With some of the moves that we've made at the end of June and the start of July, we felt we've accomplished that but we're still looking to add more depth to our organization. Will's coming off an amazing year; winning the Hobey Baker, winning the NCAA championship. We certainly have interest, but there's also a lot of interest throughout the league. It's a scenario where he's going through a process right now making a decision, and we're excited that we're at least part of the equation. We'll see what happens over the next week or so."

With the potential addition of Butcher, the Sabres would be stock piled with left-handed defenseman at both the NHL and AHL levels. It has been reported that Butcher is willing to start out in the AHL and develop his game in the minors. Even with the Sabres looking deep on the blue line for a couple more seasons, Botterill believes the Sabres organization has a lot to offer for Butcher if he comes to Buffalo.

"I feel that we can present a pretty good situation. Not only the resources that the Pegulas provide us, but I think a coach like Phil Housley can translate very well for a young defenseman like Will," Botterill said. "Just look at Phil's track record of developing defenseman in Nashville. We're hoping to carry that over to Buffalo here too."

You can hear Bartlett's entire interview with The Instigators below: