NHL Free Agency: Devils' Signing of Butler Could Bring Great Returns

Robert TheodorsonSenior Analyst IAugust 12, 2012

UNIONDALE, NY - APRIL 01: Bobby Butler #16 of the Ottawa Senators skates against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on April 1, 2012 in Uniondale, New York. The Senators defeated the Islanders 5-1.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The big mystery of why Petr Sykora was not signed in a timely manner might finally be solved.

The Devils elected to go with a young forward Bobby Butler, an undrafted winger who spent the past two seasons with the Ottawa Senators.

After receiving a lot more playing time after a rather impressive 2010-11 season in which he scored 21 points in 36 games, Butler had a poor showing last season on a much better Senators team that made the playoffs.

Butler performed so poorly that he was benched for four out of seven matches against the New York Rangers in the first round of the playoffs. He finished with zero points and six shots on goal in three games. 

Despite his forgettable season, Butler is still a young player and has a lot of room for improvement, and the potential to recapture his scoring touch from two seasons ago is well within grasp if the Devils utilize him in the correct manner. 

Butler will be expected to regain his form in a timely manner while maintaining a defensively responsible stature. Based on his size, it is likely that the Devils will not ask much physicality from the 6'0", 180-pound forward as his hands will need to do most of the playing for him. 

Wisely signed to a two-way contract just in case the experiment doesn't work out, look for Butler to make the NHL roster out of camp due to the complete lack of depth at NHL-ready forwards in the system.

Forward depth is a problem for New Jersey, not just because of the loss of Zach Parise and Alexei Ponikarovsky, but because the organization is very shallow at both wings and center.

This is a matter the organization has seemed to make top priority when they drafted Stefan Matteau with their first-round pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.