Although he didn't exactly light things up this year, it would be hard to argue that Bobby Butler's rookie season wasn't a success. He stepped in for his first full year of pro, and between the NHL and AHL has potted 42 goals through the regular season and playoffs. Much of his NHL success was enabled by Jason Spezza, but there's no denying that Butler has a nose for the net and a natural goal scoring ability. What remains to be seen is whether he can be a regular producer in a top-six role at the NHL level, or if his ceiling is limited to minor-league success.
#16 / Right Wing / Ottawa Senators
Apr 26, 1986
|2010 - Bobby Butler||36||10||11||21||-16||10||1||0||3||73|
Contract status: Butler just finished a two-year deal, although it was two years by technicality alone: He only played one full pro season in the organization. He is a restricted free agent.
Season in review: After starting with a good degree of success in the AHL (22G and 11A in 47GP), Butler was brought up to the Ottawa Senators for the latter part of the season after injuries and trades depleted the roster. In mostly first-line minutes, Butler scored 10G and 11A in 36 regular-season games, before being sent back to Bingo for their playoff run. Although it's still in progress, Butler's done well in the post-season so far, with 10G and 3A in 17 playoff games.
Comparable players: In looking to compare Butler with other players, I've looked for mostly younger guys who've come to the NHL via an atypical route--Butler didn't join the Senators with the hype of a high draft pick, instead going undrafted and finishing his college career before signing with Ottawa as an unrestricted free agent. The fact that he didn't sign a standard entry-level deal will effect his second pro contract.
#26 / Left Wing / New York Islanders
Nov 01, 1983
Cap hit: $3.133M, three more years
|2010 - Matt Moulson||82||31||22||53||-10||24||9||0||3||237|
Although Matt Moulson was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings and debuted with that team, he didn't really get much of an opportunity in the NHL until he joined John Tavares and the New York Islanders. After a 30-goal first season on Long Island, he signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $2.45M. It's unlikely that Butler's salary will approach that number, but he may be interested in limiting the term of his next deal so that he can show what he can do in a full NHL season.
#20 / Left Wing / Calgary Flames
Dec 28, 1982
Cap hit: $2.55M, four more years
|2010 - Curtis Glencross||79||24||19||43||6||59||3||2||4||149|
In a similar situation to Butler's, Glencross was an undrafted player who played a couple seasons in U.S. college hockey before being signed to an entry-level deal by then-Anaheim Mighty Ducks GM Bryan Murray. He was younger than Butler when his deal was signed so he put in more time in the AHL, but after his first full season in the NHL he signed a three-year deal with the Calgary Flames worth $1.2M per season. It's possible Butler's next contract will come with a price tag that high, but going against Butler is the fact that Glencross had much more pro experience when the deal was signed.
#18 / Center / Ottawa Senators
Oct 04, 1983
Cap hit: $750k, one more year
|2010 - Jesse Winchester||72||4||9||13||-9||42||0||0||0||118|
Teammate Jesse Winchester might be one of the best comparables for Butler's next contract. They were signed from college just one year apart, in both cases after finishing their college career. After his first contract ended, Winchester signed a two-year, one-way extension worth $750k per year. A comparison of their stats favours Butler, who scored more more points in far fewer games than Winchester in their respective rookie campaigns.
Conclusion: One thing that's evident from the comparisons above is that Bobby Butler will likely be receiving a one-way contract from the Senators for next season. His play this season was very good, and it's reasonable to expect improvement for next year. In terms of salary, his statistical superiority to Winchester means he'll likely make more than his teammate, but probably not as much as Moulson made after his breakout season. Butler's salary will probably fall somewhere between $900k and $1.2M per year. My guess is a two-year deal worth about $950k per season.