Colorado Avalanche and the Ungrateful Will Butcher

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 08: Denver Pioneers defenseman Will Butcher (4) celebrates with teammates a victory against the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs by raising the championship trophy after the 2017 NCAA Division I Men's Hockey Frozen Four Championship final at the United Center on April 8, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The Pioneers won the national championship 3-2. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 08: Denver Pioneers defenseman Will Butcher (4) celebrates with teammates a victory against the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs by raising the championship trophy after the 2017 NCAA Division I Men's Hockey Frozen Four Championship final at the United Center on April 8, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The Pioneers won the national championship 3-2. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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The Colorado Avalanche are losing out on defenseman Will Butcher, who may add insult to injury by signing with a Central Division rival.

The Colorado Avalanche aren’t going to sign defenseman Will Butcher. The Denver University graduate is waiting until the August 15 deadline when he can become an unrestricted free agent and sign with any team he chooses.

I’ve been pretty annoyed with Butcher since he refused to commit to the Avalanche back in June. Recently Avs insider Adrian Dater reported that Butcher definitely would be going into free agency. That made me hot under the collar.

When I heard the oh-so-already-stacked Chicago Blackhawks, a Central Division rival no less, might be in on the Butcher hunt, my blood pressure went up. Then I saw this:

It’s just a whisper of a rumor, but the thought that Will Butcher might eschew the Colorado Avalanche in favor of the (hated) Minnesota Wild made my head explode.

And that leads to this: Will Butcher is an ingrate.

Will Butcher and the Colorado Avalanche

The Colorado Avalanche selected Will Butcher in the fifth round in 2013. Since then he’s played right here in Colorado at the University of Denver for the Pioneers. He just graduated.

As a prospect for the Avalanche, Butcher attended three prospect development camps. He got to benefit from working with some of the best trainers in the world. He also got to have fun with fellow prospects.

Butcher is small for a defenseman, Tyson Barrie-size. And though he’s offensively talented, he’s not as gifted as Barrie. He’s a good skater, but he does get overpowered in the defensive zone.

Last summer, the Colorado Avalanche were in flux about what direction they were going in. The team had been wanting to get bigger and stronger for three years, and they still acted like that was a priority. (As we saw a couple months later, they changed to a speed-first mentality.)

In any case, last June the Denver Post reported that the Colorado Avalanche had informed Butcher that they didn’t intend to sign him to a professional contract. No one ever fully explained it, but my guess is the team saw him as a small offensive defenseman who could be a liability in the d-zone, and they already had one of those in Tyson Barrie.

And though Butcher has since won the Hobey Baker Award, no one is calling him the second coming of Erik Karlsson, much less Bobby Orr. And that’s why I call him ungrateful. But then, let’s get to why the Colorado Avalanche are even in this pickle.

The CBA and College Players

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Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement that was instituted in 2013, college players have a special loophole. If they play four years of NCAA hockey, their eligibility for NCAA play ends. The team has until August 15 to sign said player.

Here’s the loophole: After that August 15 deadline, the player becomes an unrestricted free agent.

Players have used this loophole in the past. Mike Reilly snuck in on an old version of that rule and became a Minnesota Wild player after three years at the University of Minnesota. The Columbus Blue Jackets had selected him in the fourth round in 2011.

Kevin Hayes exploited that rule in full in 2014. The Chicago Blackhawks chose him in the first round in 2010. He skittered away from the Blackhawks in favor of the New York Rangers after graduating from Boston College. (He also skittered away from Stanley Cup victory since Chicago won it in 2015. There is a hockey god.)

Here’s the thing — it shouldn’t be up to the player. If a team drafted you, a team should have first rights to you. You shouldn’t just get to wait it out after accepting that team’s hospitality — and, in the case of Butcher, almost certainly cheers from that team’s fanbase — and sign with any team.

You don’t agree with me? Think about this: Cale Makar, the Colorado Avalanche’s fourth-overall this year, is playing for UMass this year. He was adamant that he was sticking to that plan. He’s utterly excited to play for UMass.

What if that excitement lasts four years? What if he comes out in 2021 and declares he has no intention of playing for his draft team? Where’s the fairness in that?

Next: 10 Years After the 2007 NHL Draft

My Hopes for Will Butcher

I just can’t get over the change in Will Butcher. Last season, he was humble. He was excited to get to come to prospect development camp for the Colorado Avalanche.

This year he’s all rock star. Here’s the official statement from his agent:

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

Fine, Will Butcher is going to be master of his own destiny. I hope Will Butcher is a bust. I hope he signs with the Chicago Blackhawks and they find no space for him on their stacked roster. I hope he bounces back and forth between the NHL and AHL.

And if he signs with the Minnesota Wild? The above plus the following: My hope is the undersized little ingrate gets a good taste of Dustin Byfuglien (or some other behemoth) à la Tyson Barrie:

Barrie can take a hit. Butcher? Well, I guess we’ll see. Maybe Big Z the Destroyer, Nikita Zadorov, can do the honors:

No, really, if Will Butcher signs with the Wild, I hope he gets lost in the frozen tundra of Minnesota and his soft parts freeze off. That’s one kid who puts the flake in “snowflake.”

I mean, seriously, if the worst hockey thing that ever happens to you is a team changes its mind about not wanting you, then Will Butcher will be the luckiest NHLer ever. Ask Marian Hossa. Ask Jesse Winchester. Hell, ask Steve Moore.