Report: Butcher to visit with Sabres

August 15, 2017

For the second straight season, the most recent Hobey Baker Award winner as college hockey's top player is heading to free agency.

Former University of Denver defenseman Will Butcher has decided not to sign with the Colorado Avalanche and has hit the free agent market. The 22-year old Wisconsin native put up 37 points (seven goals and 30 assists) in 43 games as captain of the Pioneers, and helped lead Denver to a NCAA Division-I Men's Ice Hockey championship.

Butcher was originally a 2013 fifth round pick (123rd overall) of the Avalanche while playing with the U.S. National Development Program. After his junior season at Denver, Colorado told Butcher that they had no interest in signing the defenseman to an entry-level contract. After four years with the Pioneers and 103 career points in 158 games, Butcher will pass on signing with the Avalanche to pursue other opportunities via unrestricted free agency.

According to Mark Chambers of the Denver Post, Butcher has had interest from the Buffalo Sabres and will visit with the team. Butcher will also reportedly speak with the New Jersey Devils and Vegas Golden Knights.

Matt Bove from WKBW in Buffalo reports that the Sabres have already reached out to Butcher's camp. His colleague, Nick Filipowski, reports that the Sabres are hoping to talk with Butcher as soon as Wednesday, but are among a dozen other teams who have inquired about the defenseman.

Hearing BUF is one of about a dozen teams to have inquired about Denver D Will Butcher. #Sabres

— Nick Filipowski (@NICK_WKBW) August 16, 2017

While Butcher may be a bit undersized at 5' 10" and 190-pounds, he is a smooth skating, mobile, left-handed defenseman with an offensive upside to his game. With the Sabres, Butcher would likely start in the American Hockey League with the Rochester Americans with the hopes that he develops into a NHL-ready defenseman.

Butcher has a history of playing in international competition with a pair of Sabres prospects. Jack Eichel and Hudson Fasching both played with Butcher during the 2014 and 2015 IIHF Under-20 World Junior Championship. In 10 games played with Team U.S.A. in the two tournaments, Butcher scored two goals and registered four assists playing on the blue line.

According to Butcher's agent Brian Bartlett in an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, they are anticipating several more teams to inquire on Butcher's services. He also said that Butcher is expected to make his decision in about a week after talking with teams and visiting a couple of cities. 

Some of the other notable names that are available starting Wednesday includes forwards Alex Kerfoot and Blaine Byron, and defenseman Connor Clifton.

The Sabres and former general manager Tim Murray had acquired the rights to 2016 Hobey Baker winner Jimmy Vesey last year with the hopes of signing him to an entry-level deal. Vesey eventually went on to hit the free agent market and sign with the New York Rangers.

The Sabres have had eight past Hobey Baker Award winners to play in Buffalo, including Eichel who won the award in 2015 while with the Boston University Terriers.

Keep it locked to WGR and with the latest on the Sabres' offseason.