Flames' Butler set to serve

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:23 AM ET

CALGARY - Chris Butler might want to stay away from the Internet for a few days.

After losing their best defenceman over the past 11 seasons, Calgary Flames fans were understandably upset with a return that cost their team a draft pick rather than included one.

But the former Buffalo Sabres blueliner who comes over in the deal for veteran Robyn Regehr is a St. Louis product who has seen firsthand a ticked-off fanbase be swayed over time.

“I remember when (Chris Pronger) got traded coming over from Hartford, and people thought it was the worst deal in the world,” said the 24-year-old Butler, who joined the Flames along with prospect centre Paul Byron Saturday with Regehr, Ales Kotalik and a second-round pick in 2012 going the other way. “He turned out all right.”

Butler isn’t suggesting he’s the next Chris Pronger, and he knows after a whirlwind 24 hours that plenty of eyes will be on him in the near future.

“When I had a chance to speak with a couple of different guys in the organization and they told me how many interviews I was doing today, I was a bit overwhelmed,” Butler said with a laugh. “If it was Buffalo, it may have been one or two. But that’s the beauty of playing in a Canadian city, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity.”

The way the 6-foot-1, 200 pounder played down the stretch and in the playoffs bodes well for his future as a Flames regular.

Paired with Calgary kid Tyler Myers, Butler was logging more than 20 minutes a night, and his confidence grew accordingly.

“I think I was really starting to come into my own, really starting to grow into the player I thought I could be,” said the former University of Denver defender. “I don’t want to come in there and try and replace Robyn Regehr, a guy that’s played for the Canadian Olympic team, played more than 800 games in this league, and obviously has been a rock in Calgary there for I think 11 years. Those are big shoes to fill.

“I’m hoping that it is the perfect opportunity, and I want to do nothing but be a positive influence for the Flames organization.”

Flames GM Jay Feaster may be a little biased since he swung the deal that seems so unpopular at first glance, but he likes what Butler offers the organization now and in the future.

“Chris Butler is going to play for us right now. He can step into the lineup and move up the depth chart,” Feaster said. “We view him as a fifth defenceman right now but we think he has greater potential than that. He’s a responsible guy, more of a defensive defenceman.”

But there is some offensive upside. Butler is a strong skater and put up 20 assists and 21 points in 59 games for the Sabres in the 2009-10 season shortened by an ankle injury.

Based on their brief conversation Saturday, Flames head coach Brent Sutter wants to see more of that type of play from the newcomer.

“He just preached how they’re getting younger on the back end and want to have a mobile defence that can contribute offensively,” said Butler. “I just want to bring a level of consistency and make sure I compete as hard as I can every night.”

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca


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