After a week of consideration, Will Butcher is going to the New Jersey Devils on a two-year, $1.85 million, entry-level deal.
The much sought-after defenceman is signing with the Devils after becoming an NHL free agent last week when his rights with the Colorado Avalanche expired. Teams are restricted to signing him to a two-year contract with a maximum annual salary of $925,000.
The former University of Denver blueliner drew interest from several NHL teams. His agent Stephen Bartlett confirmed a Denver Post report that he has had discussions with the Devils, Buffalo Sabres and Vegas Golden Knights.
The Avalanche drafted Butcher in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft and had until last Tuesday to sign the Hobey Baker Award winner, who led Denver to a national championship in April. "He wanted to test the market and that is his right and decision," the Avalanche said in a statement last week.
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 is the second Hobey Baker winner in as many years 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.