According to reports, the Winnipeg Jets and defenceman Dustin Byfuglien are working toward a mutual termination of his contract.
Byfuglien would become an unrestricted free agent immediately and the Jets would be free of $7.6 million in cap space. The blueliner would have to pass waivers first. He could be put on waivers as early as Tuesday morning and could sign a new contract by February 24 in order to play for a club in this year’s playoffs.
As strange as this saga has been between team and player, it’s nice to see the finish line in sight.
As we all know, Byfuglien didn’t report to training camp in the fall and things proceeded to fall apart from there. Reports at the time suggested that he was considering retirement, which led to Winnipeg suspending him without pay. That’s lasted up to this point.
In October, Byfuglien had ankle surgery. At that time, it was believed that he wouldn’t be able to play until the new year. It was believed that Byfuglien played hurt through the previous playoffs and didn’t know how hurt his ankle was until he started preparing for training camp.
There is a dispute about when and where the injury occurred, but the termination of his contract will make that a moot point.
The Jets, prior to any termination, had to work with the potential for Byfuglien’s salary cap hit to be back on the books at any given moment. That was because the process could’ve gone through arbitration, at which point the debate about when and where the injury occurred would be on the table – and then some.
Byfuglien, according to most reliable reports, has not resumed skating and likely won’t be back for a playoff run this time out. But he could be ready to go next season. With his contract off the books, the Jets have the flexibility to move at the deadline.
It’s best for all involved that this saga ends as it does. Avoiding arbitration is a net positive and there are so many unknowns related to the future of Byfuglien that it’ll be nice if he’s not Winnipeg’s problem anymore.
With Jacob Trouba traded and Tyler Myers lost to free agency prior to the season, Byfuglien was one of the key cogs in the Jets’ wheel. But when this situation took over, things grew very complicated in Winnipeg. It’s to the team’s credit that they’ve hung in the playoff picture with four of seven defenceman earning the league minimum.
If general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff is looking for a defenceman with term left on his contract, he has options. Alec Martinez has a year to go, while the returning Shayne Gostisbehere could be another possible trade target if the Jets are willing to give something up of significant quality.
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