Former Flame Butler thrilled to join the St. Louis Blues, the team he grew up cheering for
Defenceman talked with Calgary and realized he wasn’t a fit moving forward
Although he had to wait a few weeks for a deal, Chris Butler is now a member of the St. Louis Blues.
The 27-year-old defenceman — who was originally part of the Robyn Regehr trade to the Buffalo Sabres — wound up signing a one-year, two-way deal with the club he grew up cheering for after testing the free agent waters following three seasons with the Calgary Flames.
“It would be very cool (to play for the Blues),” he said via cellphone on Thursday. “It’s the team I grew up watching. I have a lot of memories of different Blues moments over the two decades I remember watching them.
“To get a chance to put on that jersey is going to be very special for me and for my family as well.”
The St. Louis, Mo., native also took a slight hometown discount as Butler’s two-way contract is worth $650,000 in the NHL and $400,000 in the AHL with their affiliate in Chicago.
Playing in all 82-games — his first full NHL campaign and the only member of the rebuilding Flames to dress for every game in 2013-14 — Butler had a pair of goals and 14 assists, had 68 hits, and was a minus-23.
He finished second in the league with 211 blocked shots and also defined himself as a penalty-killer.
“My agent talked to (Calgary) a couple times,” said Butler who just purchased a home with his wife Jordan in Minneapolis. “Obviously, I had end of the year meetings with Brian Burke and, at that point, there wasn’t a GM. He said, ‘We’re kind of in a holding pattern here.’ We had a really good honest conversation there but after a while, I talked to the GM (Brad Treliving) and it didn’t look like it was going to be a fit moving forward and we went from there.”
Butler became an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and spent the last few weeks waiting.
“It would have been nice to get something done early, especially in that first hour when everything was crazy,” Butler said. “But I had no problem waiting. It didn’t really affect me in any way; I continued to train and prepare for the season.
“Now, it’s a little bit of weight off my shoulders and it’s not in the back of my mind anymore. At the end of the day, if it took two weeks or two months, I couldn’t be happier with the end result.”
He told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the Blues had reached out to him on the first or second day of free agency but nothing materialized at that point.
A few weeks later, Butler had been on a vacation in Europe when he received a phone call from Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock. Later, he sat down with St. Louis GM Doug Armstrong.
“It was more or less touching base and talking about where they are right now and moving forward with what they have for defencemen,” said Butler who also owns a house in Kirkwood which is 15 minutes outside of St. Louis. “Maybe fitting in and what they thought about my game.
“It was two good conversations.”
Butler had been part of the return in 2011 for Regehr (as well as Ales Kotalik and a second-round pick in the 2012 draft which wound up to be Jake McCabe) along with Paul Byron.
In total, Butler has 349 games of NHL experience including parts of three seasons with the Sabres. He’s also represented the U.S. twice at the world championships (2012 and 2013).
The Blues have seven defencemen on one-way contracts next season but are in need of NHL-ready depth at the position.
“The conversations I’ve had with the head coach and GM have both been positive,” he said. “I’m motivated and excited and I’m looking forward to camp.
“I’m going to approach it the same way I always do --- continue to work hard in the summertime and make sure I’m in good shape when training camp rolls around and compete for ice time.”
ICE CHIPS . . . Ben Hanowski, who signed a two-way pact with the Flames last weekend, will earn $67,500 at the AHL level and $850,500 at the NHL level . . . Still awaiting contracts from the Flames are restricted free agents: defencemen Mark Cundari and Chad Billins, forward Lance Bouma, and goalie Joni Ortio. Meanwhile, Joe Colborne’s arbitration hearing is set for Aug. 1 in Toronto . . . T.J. Galiardi, James Martin, and David Eddy and goalie Olivier Roy were not tendered a qualifying offer by the Flames and are unrestricted free agents along with defencemen Shane O’Brien and Derek Smith and forward Kevin Westgarth . . . According to a report on Swisshockeynews. CH, Flames G Jonas Hiller suffered an appendicitis attack at a goalie camp in Verbier.
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