Chicago Blackhawks, Butcher’s Free Agency Decision Could Be Related

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 8: Will Butcher
CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 8: Will Butcher /
CHICAGO, IL – APRIL 8: Will Butcher
CHICAGO, IL – APRIL 8: Will Butcher /

The reigning top NCAA men’s hockey player made an important decision Wednesday, and it could have an effect on the Chicago Blackhawks

It has just been announced that defenseman Will Butcher will test free agency in the NHL, meaning he could sign with the Chicago Blackhawks or any other team outside the one that drafted him. Butcher had finished up his college career at the University of Denver. Butcher finished his college career with the 2017 Hobey Baker Trophy and 2017 national title.

He informed Colorado general manager Joe Sakic that he will not be signing with the Avalanche, instead opting for free agency. Butcher was a fifth-round pick of the Avalanche in 2013.

Butcher is now second Hobey Baker winner in the last four years to spurn the team that drafted him. Jimmy Vesey, the 2012 Hobey Baker winner, turned away the Predators and signed with the New York Rangers.

Draft rights risks

More from Blackhawk Up

When drafting any player, the team takes on some risk. When drafting a college player, an NHL team takes on a higher level of risk in my mind.

The risk is that player can complete his four years of school and opt for free agency. A team can help develop a player for four years in the United States and keep a closer eye on him, only to watch him opt for free agency.

In the cases of Butcher, Vesey and Kevin Hayes, they upped their value as college players and decided to head to a contender right away.

Unlike a player drafted out juniors, the team owns his rights whether he plays here or in Europe.  There are even rare situations where the the organization owns your rights longer than four years.

One example would be that of the Maxim Shalunov. The Athletic’s Scott Powers does a great job explaining the Blackhawks still own his rights because of him being on the reserved list — although the ’Hawks might not see him till 2020-21.

How Butcher’s decision affects the Blackhawks

Butcher’s decision to test free agency affects the Blackhawks in two ways. One the Blackhawks now will be bidders for Butcher. He is a left-handed shot but does play defense. The Blackhawks are always looking for more defensive prospects. He might be more polished that some of the players they have in their system. Blackhawk Up’s Aaron Goldschmidt has already said the Blackhawks will pursue Butcher. 

The ’Hawks also have a prospect in a similar situation. Dylan Sikura is returning to Northeastern for his senior season. The fear is the Sikura could pull a Hayes and opt for free agency.

Now the Blackhawks have combated this issue by offering to burn a year of players’ entry level contracts in March after their college careers end. The Blackhawks did that with John Hayden last season.

Next: Kyle Baun's Curious Time With Blackhawks

The offseason drama is not over yet, and the Blackhawks could benefit from this latest piece of news by building a deeper defensive prospect pool.