First and foremost, I'm painfully aware that my level of excitement regarding the addition of a player that has as much NHL ice time on his resume as I do is irrational. I'm objective enough to realize that that can be directly attributed to the depressing dearth of talent that the Devils currently have at said player's position. My giddiness may scream otherwise, but I know that Ray Shero didn't just convince a future Norris Trophy candidate to willingly come to New Jersey.
However, relative to the state of the blue line that he's joining, adding the Hobey Baker winning captain of a National Champion is more significant than just adding a 22 year old that was made available by his inability to crack a lineup that was somehow worse than the one he's now a part of. The bar may have gotten set lower than a 'Fisher Price' basketball hoop with each passing day that the Devils didn't address their backend, but I'll be damned if they didn't posterize other suitors by windmill dunking all over that bar in the waning seconds of their offseason. They satisfied the blind hopes and deafening prayers of literally everyone that has a vested interest in their improvement, even if those dreams became easier to fulfill than Jon Merrill's vacated spot in the lineup.
Will Butcher admittedly doesn't have all that much competition, but he just instantly became the Devils' best defensive prospect. Considering the astronomical market value that NHL teams placed on anyone that's ever successfully executed one single poke check, paying peanuts for a guy that could potentially top out as a second pairing, offensive defenseman was about as good of a return as you could possibly hope to get on a minimal investment. The Devils just bought themselves a lucky lottery ticket, and though the payout isn't the NHL equivalent of the Powerball, this team could benefit if it ends up being worth significantly more than it's $950K salary for the next two seasons.
Perhaps even more encouraging than the fact that New Jersey picked up a defensive prospect whose promising future isn't at least three years away from coming to fruition is the fact that they were able to convince someone to voluntarily pick New Jersey. Will Butcher may have just chosen to join the Devils' to increase his odds of looking better by comparison, but hopefully impending free agents don't see it at that way when looking at the state of a rebuilding franchise. It possibly could have been out of pity, but Ray Shero just left the ghosts of lost sweepstakes past (Jimmy Vesey and Alex Kerfoot) in the rearview on the road to turning the Devils' into a preferred destination. That doesn't mean they any closer to being a playoff team today than they were yesterday, but they are slightly closer to icing competence in their own end. Honestly, that's really all that rational fans were asking out of this offseason. It just so happened to come at the proverbial buzzer in a fashion that this organization definitely can't say it is used to.
Hey Jim Montgomery, do me a favor and quiet down so that I don't need another cold shower? Much appreciated...
Devils' fans, it's time to consider not changing our underwear...