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Butcher agrees to two-year contract with Devils

Defenseman drafted by Avalanche won Hobey Baker Award last season

NHL.com @NHL

Defenseman Will Butcher agreed to a two-year, entry-level contract with the New Jersey Devils on Sunday. It has an average annual value of $925,000.

"Honored [and] humbled to be a part of the [New Jersey] Devils," Butcher wrote on Twitter. "Would like to thank all teams involved in the process. The NHL community is truly the best."

Butcher, 22, became a free agent after not signing with the Colorado Avalanche, who selected him in the fifth round (No. 123) of the 2013 NHL Draft.

"We are immensely excited to have Will and his family join our organization," New Jersey general manager Ray Shero told Northjersey.com. "This continues to represent what we want to do as a team: Bring in talented individuals, invest in their talent, and develop them as we progress."

Butcher reportedly also considered the Buffalo Sabres, Los Angeles Kings and Vegas Golden Knights.

"It was a difficult decision for Will because a number of teams did a great job of presenting how they could help Will grow into an NHL player," agent Brian Bartlett said. "Ultimately, Will and his family felt like New Jersey provided a good mix of opportunity, coaching, development, style of play, and returning players. Will has always been an offensive defenseman and felt like if he continues to develop, there could be a chance to help on New Jersey's power play in the future."

Butcher won the Hobey Baker Award as the top player in NCAA Division I men's hockey last season. He had 37 points (seven goals, 30 assists) in 43 games for the University of Denver, which won the NCAA championship.

Video: Will Butcher on winning the Hobey Baker Award

"He has an elite level brain and really good poise," Jim Montgomery, Butcher's coach at Denver, said last week. "Every time he touches the puck, it's going to be a positive outcome because he makes great decisions, so that's the No. 1 thing that stands out to me.

"He's improved as far as his gap control and with how he angles people and moves his feet to take away time and space, and another thing special about him is his transitional passing."

Montgomery, who had a 12-year professional playing career, compared Butcher's style to former NHL defenseman Andrei Markov, who played 16 NHL seasons and had 572 points (119 goals, 453 assists) in 990 regular-season games.

"Markov made great decisions with the puck and was really good on the power play," Montgomery said. "I don't see [Butcher] being able to play 25 minutes a night right away because this is the best league in the world and he's going to have to adjust to the size and speed of the forwards he'll be defending (Butcher is 5-foot-10, 190 pounds).

"But do I think he can go out and run a power play right now? I do think he can do that. Can he run a No. 1 power play? I don't know, but I know he has the potential to grow into that."

The Associated Press reported that Butcher can make an additional $850,000 in bonuses.

Bartlett also represents forward Drew Stafford,who signed a one-year, $800,000 contract with the Devils on Friday.

The Avalanche on Thursday signed college free agent forward Alex Kerfoot, who was a finalist for the Hobey Baker won by Butcher. Kerfoot was selected by the Devils in the fifth round (No. 150) of the 2012 NHL Draft.

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