It was a pretty life-changing four days for Will Butcher this summer. On July 27th he married the love of his life, wife Tayler in a beautiful ceremony in their home state of Wisconsin. Days later, the two went on their honeymoon, where miles and miles away from home, Butcher signed on the dotted line on a brand new three-year, $11.2 million contract with New Jersey.
"It's been a very busy summer, but very fun at the same time," Butcher exclusively told NewJerseyDevils.com. "My wife and I are really excited now to be a part of the Devils for another three years and really excited that we could get that deal done."
The newly-signed Butcher was a restricted free agent with arbitration rights, but the two sides never got to the arbitration process, instead of finalizing the deal on July 31st. While negotiations were on-going between Butcher's agents and general manager Ray Shero, the 24-year-old had trust in the two sides and stayed involved only on the periphery.
"I am a little bit [involved] but it's more just [agent] Brian [Bartlett] calling me and letting me 'hey this is kind of what's being talked about and what are your thoughts' and bouncing ideas back and forth," Butcher said.
Video: RAW | Will Butcher
"I wanted to be here, I chose to come here when I was a free agent out of college," he continued. "I wanted to be here, I wanted to play here. It was just great work by my agents to help get with Ray [Shero] and get a deal done before that [arbitration] date hit."
The negotiations appeared to be rather smooth, but actually signing the contract? That was a little more complicated. It wasn't necessarily the most convenient timing for Butcher. He was already on his honeymoon, 2,756 miles away from New Jersey, in Iceland. The four-hour time difference also made things trickier.
"Funny story," Butcher laughed. "When I ended up signing, it was 3 a.m. in Iceland. So, I was in the bathroom while [wife] Tayler was trying to sleep in the other room. I was trying not to wake her up and signed on the phone with Brian, it's a funny story that I can look back at down the road."
What matters is of course that, first, his wife was not woken up, and also that Butcher remains with New Jersey for another three seasons. The organization is one that Butcher chose himself as a college free agent in the summer of 2017. Butcher had his options, and he took the decision very seriously. For him and his wife, their time in New Jersey has met every one of their expectations.
"I think when things go well, in the sense of how you feel where you're at and the kind of people you gravitate towards, you just know you're in the right spot," he said. "That's how it was for me, that was the reason why I chose to come here after coming on a visit and seeing some of the guys, talking with coach Hynes, talking with Mr. Shero just about everything it all seemed to click and it has for me here."
When the couple flew back from their honeymoon, they landed New Jersey. After spending last summer in Denver, the couple had decided to remain in New Jersey for the entire off-season, making the area their new home-base.
"I think a lot of it came down to finding a place where it is a home and making it a home," Butcher continued. "I think in my head when I've bought in to places and really come around with the culture and the attitude of [a team] it's because I've really immersed myself in it. I'm a firm believer that when you do that, the best results come from that and that was a huge reason why my wife and I decided to stay here for the summer and just be around the atmosphere and culture more."
Butcher is now part of a growing core as he enters his third NHL season. In 2019-20, the locker room will look rather different after a summer of big acquisitions by Shero. The additions of Jack Hughes, Wayne Simmonds, Nikita Gusev, and defenseman P.K. Subban change the landscape.
"It's going to be really exciting," he said. "It's an exciting time for our fans but it's an exciting time for us as players because the new guys added in, we get to embrace those guys and show them what being a New Jersey Devil is all about. It just creates for exciting times from training camp, up on through the rest of the season."
Now, with his wedding, honeymoon, and contract in the rear-view mirror, Butcher can focus on the excitement of a new season on the horizon. He's back on the ice already at the RWJBarnabas Health Hockey House and skated this week with his teammates Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac. In a few short weeks, they'll be joined by the rest of the gang readying for the 2019-20 campaign.
"We're going out and playing a sport that we love, it's something I gravitate towards, especially with this team," Butcher said. "I'm just so excited to be a part of it for another three years."