Lightning not among early suitors for Will Butcher
Hobey Baker-winning defenseman Will Butcher is now an unrestricted free agent, and is likely to draw his share of suitors.
So far, however, the Lightning isn't among them.
Butcher, 22, drafted by the Avalanche in 2013, is expected to chat with several teams, reportedly including the Sabres, Devils and Golden Knights. The left-shot defenseman is a strong puck-mover, with 43 points in 37 games for the Pioneers en route to the NCAA Championship.
Agent Brian Bartlett said Butcher could sign with a team in the next week or so, but Tampa Bay has yet to reach out. Bartlett said Butcher doesn't require a guranteed NHL roster spot, that he'd be open to starting in the AHL if it was the right organization and fit.
"What ends up winning the day, I'm not sure," Bartlett told the Times. "But we have not told teams that if you don't have an NHL spot for him in training camp, don't bother even calling. It's quite the opposite."
So why wouldn't the Lightning kick the tires on Butcher? There's still time, of course. But it's been well-documented Tampa Bay has a current glut of potentially eight NHL caliber defensemen, including prized prospect Mikhail Sergachev, another left-shot, who will be given every chance to make the roster out of camp. Victor Hedman, Slater Koekkoek and Braydon Coburn are also left shot defensemen expected to be on the team.
Now it's true that Koekkoek and Andrej Sustr are on one-year deals, and both Dan Girardi and Coburn have two years left on their contracts (as does Anton Stralman). So another spot could potentially open in another year.
But the Lightning also like the defense prospects in its system, and those guys need to play in too, albeit in AHL Syracuse. You have left-shots like Libor Hajek and Dominik Masin, along with right-shots Erik Cernak and Matt Spencer. The Lightning also drafted Cal Foote in the first round in June's draft.
If you sign Butcher, you're going to likely give him quality AHL minutes. So you have to evaluate him and his game how it compares to the other prospects in your system, and the chance he can help the NHL club in the near future. Butcher has to think of that too, and he'll have other options that probably offer him NHL time sooner.
There's no question Butcher is intriguing. It's not often when a Hobey Baker winner and touted two-way defense prospect becomes available like this. But, at least for now, Tampa Bay is on the outside looking in on the Butcher sweepstakes.