Don’t Be Surprised If New Jersey Devils Protect Will Butcher

New Jersey Devils defenseman Will Butcher (8): (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)
New Jersey Devils defenseman Will Butcher (8): (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports) /

Today, we are going to go through the biggest surprises that could come when the New Jersey Devils announce who they are going to protect in the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft. There are some pretty obvious protections for the Devils. Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt, Miles Wood, Yegor Sharangovich, and Pavel Zacha appear to be obvious candidates among the forwards. Damon Severson and Jonas Siegenthaler are the most likely candidates to be protected when it comes to defensemen. Mackenzie Blackwood is going to be protected as the goalie.

That leaves the Devils with one more slot to protect a defenseman. They have P.K. Subban, Will Butcher, a possibly re-signed Ryan Murray, and a possible acquisition for a team that’s in trouble with the cap or expansion draft requirements. After how Lindy Ruff used Will Butcher last season, it seems pretty obvious that he’d be exposed. However, that’s not necessarily a guarantee.

Butcher is 26 years old, and the Devils know he has a ton of talent. He isn’t the best skater, and that’s not going to change, but he has a good shot and he excelled when he was given power play time. His 5v5 CorsiFor% wasn’t great at 5v5 this season (46.65% was 9th among the defensemen), but his 1.9 chances per minute with the man advantage was best among the defensemen. Ty Smith was closest with 1.38 chances per minute.

He was clearly overwhelmed by a Lindy Ruff system that prioritized skating and getting involved in the offense after John Hynes taught him for two years to play the exact opposite style. Hynes wanted Butcher to play with more of a defensive mindset.

Butcher might be spending his summer specifically working on fitting better with a Lindy Ruff style. If that’s the case, wouldn’t it make sense to protect Butcher to at least see what that looks like? He’s 26, so he fits with the age group the Devils are trying to target. He was really good on this team at one point.

Next. Don't Be Surprised If Devils Protect Andreas Johnsson. dark

Right now, the choice for the Devils is between Butcher and Subban. If Tom Fitzgerald thinks Butcher has more of a future in New Jersey than the former Norris trophy winner, then he’ll be the surprise protection next month.