After signing Dougie Hamilton to a massive contract, the New Jersey Devils have cleared out some cap space from the defensive unit. The Devils have traded Will Butcher and a 2022 fifth-round pick to the Buffalo Sabres. The Devils will receive future considerations.
Butcher, 26, is signed through only the 2021-22 season but carries a $3.7MM cap hit that had become cumbersome for the Devils. The former University of Denver star is a great playmaker and can rack up points on the powerplay, but just isn’t a strong enough skater or physical enough to make up for it. His defensive game has always been a struggle, but it was only magnified as the Devils lost some of their other responsible options. With Hamilton signing and Ryan Graves acquired from the Colorado Avalanche, there was simply no more room for Butcher in New Jersey.
For Buffalo though, acquiring Butcher is a brilliant move. The team can let him run the second powerplay unit to accumulate points through the first half of the season, then flip him at the deadline for a future asset. Even just taking on his contract now landed them a draft pick, and it seems likely that they’ll be able to acquire another one down the road. The Sabres aren’t ready to compete for the playoffs and could stand to do more moves like this, eating some money for future picks.
In New Jersey, this is another indication that the Devils aren’t going to be happy missing the playoffs again this season. The team solidified their goaltending position by bringing in Jonathan Bernier and added the best free agent available in Hamilton. While the team is still extremely young, there’s lots of cap room and plenty of prospects ready to take the next step. Butcher was in the way, and it only cost them a fifth-round pick to move him out.