Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that Butler deserves a statue.
However, what he does deserve is a bunch of praise for what he accomplished last year as a 25-year-old. Certainly, he is not exactly what one would call and offensive threat – but he manned the blue line pretty well last season, with most of his time on the ice coming against top offensive threats such as the Sedin twins, Dany Heatley (haha) and Alex Burrows.
He also logged about 17.5 minutes per game at even strength last year, behind only Jay Bouwmeester – while also playing against the 5th most difficult opposition in the league and starting in his own end 45% of the time.
Now, I’m willing to admit that Jay Bouwmeester’s exceptionally long coat tails (see: Staios, Steve) likely had a lot to do with Butler’s play overall last year – but the fact is Butler put up comparable, if not better, numbers than Bouwmeester playing rather solidly in a legit #2 role – and he did it for only 1.25 million dollars.
Looking at his top-20 cap hit comparables on CapGeek, the only real quality guys that jump out to me are Karl Alzner, Justin Braun and Carl Gunnarsson. Interesting in that to my eyes, all of those guys are cut from the same cloth as Butler – lackluster even strength offensive stats, but they all have some pretty good advanced stats there in one place or another.
If I’m constructing a team, it’s those types of guys you should be looking to anchor a defense on – combined, those four made $5,110,000 against the cap last year, none of them are over 26 or under 24, and all of them are out of their ELC periods. Guys like that allow a GM to go make overpays like Dennis Wideman without impailing the entire blueline on a metaphorical money sword because they provide positional value in comparision to the amount of money they make.
Speaking of money and contracts, Butler’s going to need a new contract after this season and he’s smack dab in his prime as it is (26), so another short to medium term (i.e. 3 years, taking him to his 29 year old season) contract leaves minimal risk for the Flames and the chance for great reward. The other three big guys on the blue line are still pretty secure when it comes to contracts and are pretty close in age, meaning that this particular group (pending contracts) looks to be a solid one for the next 2-3 years.
However, getting value from guys like Butler and Brodie is going to be imperative when you’re paying the rest of the blue line 20 million dollars as it is. I think the Flames are likely to get that value out of both of those guys until at least the 2015-2016 season, given reasonable contracts.
Side note: It will be interesting to see who’s lined up with who on the blue line when the Flames return, because they have a number one guy, two 2/3 guys and a 3 guy (feel free to guess who’s who) – but the talents of each make it so that I think you’ll find a 6 that looks like this to be the optimal setup:
Lastly, I feel like I need to address something: the manner in which Butler came to Calgary. Looking back, if I had to do that exact same deal as was proposed on June 23rd, 2011 I absolutely would’ve done so knowing what we know now. I realize a lot of anger over the deal stemmed from the lack of apparent shopping around Jay Feaster did, but today that deal is essentially Robyn Regehr and Jake McCabe for Butler – and even in that context I think the Flames won the deal.
Agree or disagree with anything? Drop a note in the comments.