USATSI_9097651_154158418_lowresThe Winnipeg Jets have signed defenceman Dustin Byfuglien to a five-year contract extension worth $38 million.

The two sides had spent considerable time hammering out the deal, with the 30-year-old clear in his resolve to remain in Winnipeg. He was slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, so it was imperative that a deal was done sooner rather than later.

Byfuglien’s current cap hit is worth $5.2 million, but that will jump to $7.6 million starting next season. He’ll become one of the highest paid defenceman in the NHL as a result, with only Montreal’s P.K. Subban and Nashville’s Shea Weber accounting for higher cap hits come 2016-2017.

“We’re very excited that Dustin and us were able to come to an agreement…with respect to the term and the money,” Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said.

Byfuglien is tied for second among NHL defencemen with 32 points in 52 games, including 15 goals.

But his Winnipeg Jets are, like the other Canadian teams, on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoff picture. Their 23-26-3 record is good for seventh in the Central Division, nine points back on Colorado for the final wild card spot in the conference.

“We’ve got a good group of guys here,” Byfuglien said. “I’ve been with them for a while now, watching the process of everyone coming up and who’s coming in the organization now and what we have coming. I believe in what they’re trying to do here. You can’t win a Stanley Cup overnight. It’s a process and I feel they’re in the right state.”

Byfuglien, who played in his third NHL All-Star Game this season, has 11 seasons in the NHL. He’s suited up for the Jets/Atlanta Thrashers and the Chicago Blackhawks and has 376 points in 649 games.

The Jets will now turn their attention to signing Andrew Ladd. The rumour mills have been ablaze with talk of a trade, especially with the looming deadline and his UFA status come summer. If the Byfuglien signing tells us anything, it’s that signing Ladd could be more complicated.

Chevelddayoff is already on record saying there are “lots of moving parts” involved with signing Ladd, plus there are some RFAs to consider. That could leave the captain as the odd man out.

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