In their quest to acquire more defensive weapons, General Manager Jim Rutherford confirmed that the Penguins have an interest in signing former University of Denver defenseman — and Hobey Baker winner — Will Butcher. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Pens will definitely be in the mix when it comes to what team Butcher ultimately decides to sign with.
This will potentially be the second Hobey Baker-level talent Pittsburgh signs, as the team already snagged elite forward, and finalist to the coveted MVP award, Zach Aston-Reese back in May. The Hobey Baker title, much like the Heisman Trophy in college football, goes to the top player in Division I men’s hockey each season.
Butcher was originally selected by the Colorado Avalanche in the fifth round of the 2013 draft at No. 123, but since his free agency began this past Wednesday, he has reportedly met with five NHL teams. Though unconfirmed, the Associative Press cited Butcher meeting with the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, Vegas Golden Knights, and several others.
The 22-year-old racked up 37 points (seven goals, 30 assists) in his final season with Denver. His team would then go on to win the 2017 NCAA Championship over Minnesota-Duluth. Butcher played an intricate and important role throughout the Pioneers’ playoff run, and he’ll be a massive force for any team he decides to play for.
Butcher’s agent, Brian Barlett, mentioned that a signing could happen in the next few days once the two of them meet with a couple more teams. He also told AP that the American Hockey League is an option Butcher is considering to open up his professional career.
Time will only tell, but if the Penguins can somehow land this kid, the growing list of young guns will boost this team’s future plans of success tenfold — especially on the defensive side of things.