NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Lou Lamoriello has had a habit of finding players that other teams have given up on and getting them to produce for the New Jersey Devils.
The Devils president and general manger netted productive seasons from castoffs Ryan Carter and Steve Bernier in winning the Eastern Conference last season, and Lamoriello is hoping to do the same with Bobby Butler this season.
Butler had the final year of his contract bought by the Ottawa Senators after a disappointing sophomore season. Lamoriello signed him to a two-way contract in August, about a month before the NHL began a four-month lockout.
"He just told me there was an opportunity and that I would have to prove myself," Butler said Tuesday after the Devils held their third practice since the new collective bargaining agreement was finalized. "That's something I knew I would have to do coming off last year. I'm just glad he gave me the opportunity to do that."
Butler doesn't say much about his final season in Ottawa other than he suffered a groin injury early and never got going under new coach Paul MacLean. The bounces that were there in 2010-11 and helped him score 10 goals in 36 games, just weren't there last season. The result was six goals in 56 games, not the type of production the Senators expected after signing the former University of New Hampshire forward to a two-year, one-way contract.
With young talent in the organization, Ottawa elected to buy out Butler for $400,000 rather than keep him on the roster for this season with $1.2 million price tag.
Where the Senators gave up, Lamoriello jumped in. He did the same thing last year in claiming Carter off waivers from the Florida Panthers and signing Bernier as a free agent. They became key parts of his fourth line with Carter scoring five goals in the postseason (nine overall) and Bernier adding two in the Stanley Cup run and three overall.
Butler, who scored 61 goals in college, has the capability of scoring more and softening the blow of losing captain Zach Parise to Minnesota in free agency. He had a team-high 15 goals and eight assists in 33 games with Albany of the AHL during the lockout this season.
"He's a good shooter," Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur said of Butler. "He shoots in stride. You can tell he is a guy who scores a lot of goals because he gets the puck at the net all the time. If it's a one-timer, he gets it off. He gets through defensemen and gets the shot off. He's got that niche to get the puck on net and he had some success at the (AHL) level. He did pretty well with Ottawa. Now it's a new start for him and hopefully, he'll stick around and get a second chance."