Colorado Avalanche Drop the Ball With Will Butcher, Again

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 24: General manager of the Colorado Avalanche Joe Sakic attends the 2017 NHL Draft at United Center on June 24, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 24: General manager of the Colorado Avalanche Joe Sakic attends the 2017 NHL Draft at United Center on June 24, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Colorado Avalanche had until August 15th to sign Will Butcher. They didn’t. That’s been a foregone conclusion for a couple weeks now, ever since Butcher announced his intentions to test free agency.

They also had until August 15th to trade his rights to another team. They didn’t do that either.

Now, barring an unlikely but welcome decision from Butcher to sign in Colorado, the Avalanche will lose their third cost-controlled player under 25 for nothing this summer.

Including all the pending UFAs they failed to unload at the deadline, the team could walk away from the most firesale worthy season in recent memory with minor leaguer Felix Girard and the so far so good Sven Andrighetto as their big prizes.

That’s a lot of missed chances to get better. It’s going to be a long rebuild if this trend keeps up.

Butcher Shops

Whether Butcher ever makes an impact in the NHL is unknown. It’s also irrelevant. There are already at least three teams lining up to court his services.

The New Jersey Devils, Vegas Golden Knights and Buffalo Sabres are ready to pitch their best offer to the 2017 Hobey Baker winner. Nobody would accuse them of being top teams, but they’re hardly alone in the chase.

The Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Blawkhawks and Minnesota Wild are all rumoured to be interested in Butcher. The two time defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins might also be putting out feelers. Adding the Colorado Avalanche, that’s more than 1/3 of the league who want Will Butcher.

In other words, there is high demand for his services, based on nothing more than what he is today.

Related Story: Avs Made Their Own Roster Mess

And the Avalanche will probably get nothing from it.

A 5th round pick not working out is expected. Not signing all your prospects is understandable. But when one turns out the way Will Butcher did, it’s important to get some value out of him. Even if he doesn’t amount to anything.

Nothing for Something

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Perception is reality in this case. How good Will Butcher is going to be has no bearing on his value now. Lots of teams and media project he will be a good player, so that’s what his value is at the moment.

That’s what the Colorado Avalanche failed to get anything out of.

It’s important to keep Butcher’s achievements in perspective. He had a fantastic year, and some Hobey Baker winners have gone on to great NHL careers. Johnny Gaudreau leaps to mind. Others, like Kevin Porter, show that NCAA success doesn’t always translate to the NHL.

Projections for Butcher are difficult, for sure. Best case, he probably becomes no better than a solid 2nd pair defender. Good, but nothing to get too excited about. More likely he’ll be a third pairing, power play specialist. He might not even crack the league as a full time player.

None of that matters. Not really.

The only thing that does matter is that teams value him. And the Colorado Avalanche failed to exploit that.

Maybe Sakic tried really hard to pull off a trade. Maybe no teams were willing to bite. Or maybe he’s still holding out hope Butcher will change his mind and sign in the same city he became the player so much of the league wants.

Whatever the case, he dropped the ball. By not signing him, they lose any chance of Butcher helping their own team. By not trading him, they lost all chance of gaining any value from an enticing prospect who may never make a mark in the NHL.

The best move may well have been in the latter option, selling off an asset when interest is at its peak.

In fact, the less successful Butcher’s career is, the better any deal Sakic pulled off would be for the Avalanche. I’m in no way hoping for the kid to struggle, but how sweet would it be if Colorado rooked another team by flipping them a career minor leaguer for a mid round pick?

Don’t lay all the blame at Sakic’s feet either. Some of the acrimony is believed to stem from the Avs conveying to Butcher’s agent that he was too small. That was during Butcher’s junior season, meaning the brain trust had over a year to move a type of player that many teams covet but who didn’t fit their system.

But they did nothing. Letting him go unsigned was apparently better than trading his rights. For some reason.

They didn’t seem to understand that other teams might covet a player they don’t. Instead they chose to hold on to a valuable piece they didn’t want.

Now they will very likely lose it for nothing.


Maybe Colorado Avalanche fans should be used to getting nothing for their players when they leave. After failing to get anything for their pending UFAs at the deadline, not signing several RFAs this off-season and losing Calvin Pickard in the expansion draft, that seems to be the trend.

To be fair, most of those were players with little to no value in the league. That many of them are still without NHL contracts speaks to that very clearly. And Sakic pulled off a good move getting under-sized Sven Andrighetto for under-skilled Andreas Martinsen.

Next: The Ungrateful Will Butcher

But now, once again, he seems to have dropped the ball. He took a highly regarded asset and probably turned it into nothing. The Avalanche are worse off for not signing or trading Will Butcher. Even if he never plays a game in the NHL, the Avalanche still missed out on an opportunity to get better.

That’s not something the worst team of its era can afford.