CALGARY, AB — Amid the hectic free agent feeding frenzy, the Calgary Flames quietly signed restricted free agent Chris Butler – a move they believe will impact their blueline greatly.
"Chris Butler is going to play for us right now," general manager Jay Feaster said. "He can step into the lineup and move up the depth chart. We view him as a fifth defenceman right now but we think he has greater potential than that."
The 24 year-old signed a two-year contract with the club on Friday, earning $1,250,000 each season.
"I'm extremely happy," Butler said, enthusiasm apparent in his voice. "It's great to sign in Calgary."
Butler describes himself as a two-way defenceman who plays responsibly within his own end. His defensive game has rounded out over the past season, particularly after returning from a couple of upper body injuries early in 2011.
Paired with Tyler Myers after his return, he was logging 20 minutes a night and playing against the opposition's top lines. He ended the season with a +8 rating.
"At the end of the year I got a great opportunity and a chance to play a lot of minutes and play a big role. That was a great thrill and I think that really helped my development.
"It helped with my mindset going into this season. It allows me to look back and realize what the type of player I can be and hopefully build on in the future."
He also brings offensive upside to the defence corps. He's a strong skater who isn't afraid to play in the opposition's end. Over the past two seasons, he's put up 30 points despite only playing in 108 games.
"When opportunities are there to jump up in the play, I'm in – whether it's bringing a guy to me and that creates another opportunity to a forward or I can contribute offensively myself."
He admits the spotlight on him has been a bit brighter since being traded to Calgary but he's embracing it and can't wait to play in a rabid hockey market.
"Had I signed in an American city, I'd probably do a couple of interviews. But there's obviously a few more media outlets in Canada," he chuckled. "It's almost a religion in Canada I would say. People are so passionate about the game. It means so much to the country, to the people.
"For me, I always wanted to play in a Canadian city some day and now I'm getting that opportunity and I'm looking forward to it."