Whether the Winnipeg Jets realize it or not (which they probably do), they are in some ways between a rock and a hard place when it comes to Dustin Byfuglien now as well as going forward. Byfuglien is set to become an UFA at the commencement of this upcoming 2015-2016 season, and without a contract extension floated his way as of yet, all eyes are on the Jets in terms of what they want to do with the versatile defensemen.
As far as production goes, Byfuglien has put together some nice seasons in terms of point totals since joining the Jets in 2011. To this effect, in 69 games last season, he registered 18 goals and 45 total points, and really turned it on around the All-Star break when players usually regress and feel the lull or brunt of the season. However, the problem that exists is the Jets currently carry 11 defencemen into camp that have prior NHL experience, and to make matters worse a couple more prospects trying to work their way up to the pro club. While Byfuglien is not averse to suiting up on the wing as he has done in the past, to solve this logjam on the blueline one has to think, would it be more favorable to trade the 30-year veteran?
With top prospects Nikolaj Ehlers, Joel Armia and Kyle Connor in the system and youngsters Mark Scheifele, Adam Lowry and Andrew Copp holding down roster spots it does not make sense to shift Byfuglien to a forward role any more than keeping him on the blueline, either way your cutting into the development of youth. A trade could potentially bring in more youth or a few decent picks and losing Byfuglien would not be such a bad imposition as the Jets had a much better record last season when Byfuglien was either not in the lineup (9-3-1) or playing a forward role (16-9-7) anyways.
On Byfuglien’s side of the coin to speak, I doubt he could be happier right about now. Whether the Jets decide to offer him an extension, or either trade him now or at the trade deadline, he knows that he has a contract in line with the one Mark Giordano signed just days ago, 6-years, $40.5 million. Giordano is actually the perfect example/case, and I am sure Byfuglien’s agent is quite aware of that and will undoubtedly get his client a big bump compared to his current, yet expiring contract of 5-years, $25 million.
The Jets currently sit $12,5 million in the black when it comes to the salary cap and have 5 other players besides Byfuglien set to become UFAs at the end of this approaching season. While I wouldn’t rule a contract extension out of the question, if I were GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and principal owner Mark Chipman I would do a deep evaluation whether this team is a legitimate Cup contender within the next 5-6 years, and go from there. If they rule ‘no’ on that assessment, why not trade Byfuglien clearing some cap space and acquiring pieces in the process to aim to win for a long time after that 5-6 year time span?
It will be quite interesting to see what the Jets will do, but regardless, Byfuglien is in for a big payday whenever the ink finally hits the paper.
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