|In 106 games with the Ottawa and Binghamton Senators last season, Bobby Butler produced 45 goals. He signed a two-year, one-way contract with the Sens today (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/OSHC).
The longest season of Bobby Butler
's hockey life continues to enrich him in many ways.
On a steamy June night in Texas, the 24-year-old forward hoisted the Calder Cup as an American Hockey League champion with the Binghamton Senators. It was a remarkable finish to an exhausting campaign that saw Butler suit up for 106 games — 70 with the B-Sens and another 36 with the parent Ottawa Senators.
Today, another reward arrived for Butler and this one is anything but minor. The native of Marlborough, Mass., inked a two-year, one-way contract that ensures he'll start the 2010-11 campaign in Ottawa along with three other members of the Calder Cup champs — Zack Smith
, Colin Greening
and Erik Condra
"It's a weight off my shoulders," Butler admitted on a conference call with reporters earlier today. "Now I can just come up (to Ottawa) and be confident, just be ready to play and not worry if I'm getting shut down or whatnot. Just come and play like I was toward the end of the year, which is with some confidence and having fun.
"It's everything I've ever dreamed for ... myself, my dad and my family. I'm excited and I'm just looking forward to coming to camp (in September)."
With the Senators taking their team in a more youthful direction under the tutelage of new head coach Paul MacLean, having Butler in the mix right from the get-go makes good sense to team management.
"It's great to get him signed on a two-year, one-way deal," said Tim Murray, the Senators' assistant general manager. "It's great for the organization and it's also great for him. The one-way deal allows him to start here on the big club and have no issues about his contract. New coaching staff, new direction ... I think he should be here at the start of that.
"That's what we spoke about on the phone with his agent, that we should try to get this done so he could be here at the start with the guys he won a Calder Cup with and just start our new direction that we're going in here (with us) and not worry about going down."
When the Senators first signed Butler as a college free agent out of New Hampshire in March 2010, he came to the organization billed as a top-notch goal scorer. He didn't disappoint in his first full season in the organization, producing 45 goals — 35 of them with the B-Sens, including 13 in the playoffs, and another 10 during his time in Ottawa.
"He's a pure goal scorer," said Murray. "We just expect that he's going to continue to score goals. He's got a special ability in that he can score goals ... he gets in the right position, he's got a great release and a great shot. We think we can use that skill with him joining this team."
Butler played no more than 39 games per season during his four years at New Hampshire, which concluded with him being named a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as the top player in NCAA Division I hockey. He believes the long grind he just endured in Binghamton will pay more dividends in the years ahead.
"It helped a lot and, hopefully, it's going to help in the long run," said Butler. "Just going through the ups and downs of the playoffs and learning different ways to put teams away, or to not give up (when you're down), and just to work hard ... playing an extra 23 games in a season, it definitely helped."
Added Murray: "It was a long season, but he fought through it. He fought through the grind and he fought through the fatigue. I don't think it was hard for him down there in playoffs to get through it, but it certainly was a new experience for him and he came through it with flying colours."
Butler took "a few weeks off" following the B-Sens' Cup triumph, then began off-season workouts three weeks ago. Now he's itching to get his skating legs going again.
"I'm going to get back on the ice this week," he said. "I'm pretty excited and hungry to get out there."