Defenceman Will Butcher is attracting plenty of interest on his first day as an NHL free agent since college hockey’s top player turned down an opportunity to sign with the Colorado Avalanche.
The former University of Denver play had discussions with five teams on Wednesday, the player’s agent Stephen Bartlett wrote in a text to The Associated Press. And, Bartlett added, he’s scheduled to have talks with more teams over the next couple of days.
Bartlett wouldn’t reveal the entire list of teams, but did confirm he’s had discussions with the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils and expansion Vegas Golden Knights. The three teams were first mentioned in a report published by The Denver Post.
The Avalanche selected Butcher in the fifth round of the 2013 draft and had until Tuesday to sign the Hobey Baker Award winner , who led Denver to a national championship in April.
Butcher’s decision will come down to which team he considers the best fit rather than contract terms. Teams are restricted to signing him to a two-year contract with a maximum annual salary of $925,000.
In a statement released Wednesday by the Avalanche, the team said it made Butcher a maximum offer in April. "He wanted to test the market and that is his right and decision," the Avalanche said.
The 22-year-old from Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, capped his senior season at Denver with seven goals and a team-high 30 assists in 43 games and became just the seventh defenceman to win college hockey’s top honour. Overall, he had 28 goals and 75 assists for 103 points in 158 games with the Pioneers.
Butcher becomes the second consecutive Hobey Baker winner to pursue free agency after completing his college career.
Last summer, Harvard forward Jimmy Vesey turned down contract offers from Nashville and Buffalo before signing with the New York Rangers , for whom he had 16 goals and 27 points in 80 games. Nashville drafted Vesey and traded his rights to the Sabres once it became clear he wasn’t going to sign with the Predators.