Everyone loves defense, after all a great one makes the best offense they say. This year there may be a really nice found wallet sitting on the ground come August 15th, when 2017 NCAA Champion and Hobey Baker winner Will Butcher becomes a free agent — after turning down the Colorado Avalanche’s contract offers. This might have stemmed from Patrick Roy telling Butcher’s ‘advisor’ (not an agent wink wink nudge nudge) that the Avalanche were not interested in him, two years ago.

Will Butcher fit with the Leafs?

With Morgan Rielly, Nikita Zaitsev, Connor Carrick, Jake Gardiner, Ron Hainsey, Martin Marincin, and Alexey Marchenko penciled in for the Leafs already, things are crowded in the NHL right now.

Butcher is a 22 year old left-handed defenseman coming out of the NCAA. His odds of making the NHL roster are somewhere between slim and none, however he could step into a top 3/4 role with the Toronto Marlies right away.

He’s a little defenseman who can score, and getting this top NCAA free agent would help ease the non-existent pain of losing out on Jimmy Vesey last summer.

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Butcher’s 32 points would have put him second on the Marlies, behind Andrew Nielsen and ahead of Travis Dermott. Butcher would be a boon to the Marlies blue line, but the question we need to ask is...

Will Butcher want to come here?

The Maple Leafs are a much more attractive option for free agents now with Auston Matthews leading the way on the team, and a six-game series versus the Washington Capitals ending in overtime last season. But once again we come to the important part of “no room on the NHL team right now.”

One of the more attractive options for NCAA free agents is getting onto the NHL team right away. We saw it with Jimmy Vesey last summer, choosing a New York Rangers team he could walk onto. Casey Bailey joined the Leafs on the condition he could be with the NHL club the remainder of that season (He was then shipped off the next season in the Dion Phaneuf trade).

A few NHL teams could use a defender on an ELC to help fill out the roster at a cap-friendly price, and if Butcher wants to play now the Leafs aren’t his best option. The Blackhawks and Penguins are two very attractive places for free agents to go, with Chicago only having five NHL defensemen at the moment, and the Penguins having a spot for a call up every 15 minutes.

Will Butcher ended his NCAA career with conference & national championships, multiple individual awards and now the chance to pick where he plays. Not a bad way to enter the NHL.

Will Butcher fit with the Maple Leafs?

Yes, he sees the future and can be patient for his turn453
No, he’ll want an NHL paycheque and role right away1187
I hope not, I can’t take you Butchering any more puns. Oh no. Now I did it.270