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New Jersey Devils land top college free agent Will Butcher on entry-level deal

The former Colorado Avalanche draft pick has found a home for the upcoming season.

NCAA Hockey: Frozen Four-Denver vs Minnesota-Duluth Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The New Jersey Devils and recent college free agent defenseman Will Butcher have come to terms on a two-year entry-level contract, the team announced Sunday evening. Butcher will be signed with the Devils through the 2018-19 season, with an average annual value of $925,000.

Butcher, a former draft pick of the Avalanche, made waves in mid-August after spurning Colorado’s offer of an entry-level deal. Much like the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes of last offseason, Butcher decided to test free agency instead of signing with the team that drafted him.

The 22-year-old defenseman is a recent graduate of the University of Denver, where he played on the Pioneers’ blue line for the past four seasons. This past year, Butcher put up 37 points in 43 games and was named the Hobey Baker Award winner as college hockey’s best player en route to a Frozen Four victory with Denver.

While he was drafted at No. 123 overall in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL draft by the Avalanche, Colorado showed interest in signing the defenseman too late after his breakout season, allowing the other 30 NHL teams to see his worth.

Butcher will have his chance to work his way up the Devils’ roster, as New Jersey is quite thin at blue line depth. This isn’t the first defensive pickup for the Devils this offseason, as they added Mirco Mueller via trade with the San Jose Sharks back in June. Butcher joins a defensive corps led by 34-year-old Andy Greene and a reinvigorated Devils forward group with this year’s No. 1 overall draft pick, Nico Hischier.

Among the suitors for Butcher were the Golden Knights, Red Wings, Penguins, Wild, Blackhawks, Maple Leafs, and Sabres.