|New Hampshire captain Bobby Butler, the leading goal scorer in NCAA Division I hockey this season, has signed a two-year free agent contract with the Senators and will join the team in Washington (University of New Hampshire photo).
The Ottawa Senators have added some potential extra late-season depth to their forward ranks.Bobby Butler
, the top goal scorer in U.S. college hockey this season, has inked a two-year free-agent contract with the Senators and will join the team in Washington tonight, where Ottawa is preparing to face off against the Eastern Conference-leading Capitals on Tuesday night at the Verizon Center (7 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200.
The Senators were reportedly among a dozen teams pursuing Butler, a 22-year-old native of Framingham, Mass., whose college career at New Hampshire ended Saturday night when the Wildcats lost to Rochester Institute of Technology in the NCAA East Region final. The Senators moved quickly to agree to terms with the 6-0, 185-pound right-winger.
Butler scored 29 goals in 39 games this season while captaining New Hampshire to the Hockey East title and was a top-10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, presented annually to the top player in U.S. college hockey. He was also a recipient of the Walter Brown Award, which honours the top American-born college player in New England.
“They were very interested, and it seemed like it was a perfect fit for me,” Butler told the
Worcester (Mass.) Telegram & Gazette
. “It was probably the best opportunity for me to play right now. They said they really liked me and they could see me helping them in the future.”
Senators general manager Bryan Murray expects that future to begin arriving soon, indicating to reporters earlier today that he hopes Butler can see action in "at least a couple of games" before the end of the regular season.
"It'll give him a chance to see what he needs to do over the summer and we get a chance to see him at this level," said Murray. "When I saw him in the NCAA playoffs, he was a very good college player. He's a young guy who will need some time but very definitely, a guy who has the potential to be a goal scorer in the National Hockey League.
"He's got good hands ... and looks like a guy that has a chance to play. But again, it's time. It takes games in the league. It's a different game than he's used to playing, with bigger, stronger people against him. We know that giving him a little taste (of the NHL) now will be important for him."
"It'll give him a chance to see what he needs to do over the summer and we get a chance to see him at this level. When I saw him in the NCAA playoffs, he was a very good college player. He's a young guy who will need some time but very definitely, a guy who has the potential to be a goal scorer in the National Hockey League." - Bryan Murray
Also today, the Senators bolstered their American Hockey League roster in Binghamton by signing some of their draft prospects. Goaltender Robin Lehner
, a second-round pick (46th overall), in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, has signed an entry level deal and is headed to Binghamton, along with blueliner Eric Gryba
(third round, 68th overall, 2006), who just finished up his college career at Boston University.
Blue-chip defence prospect Patrick Wiercioch
(second round, 42nd overall, 2008) could sign by day's end, Murray said, and would likely come to Ottawa. Wiercioch's Denver Pioneers were eliminated by Butler's Wildcats in the NCAA East Regional semifinals.
The Senators also intend to bring defenceman Jared Cowen
, their top pick (ninth overall) in the 2009 draft, to Ottawa as soon as his junior season ends. Cowen's Spokane Chiefs are trailing the Portland Winter Hawks heading into Game 6 of their Western Hockey League first-round playoff series tonight.
"The whole idea of bringing these guys up is to let them be around the players come playoff time, see the pressure that they face and the development they need," said Murray. "It's a springboard for the summer. Then they know how hard our guys work and the commitment they've made."