You know we couldn’t go a month without an update of some sort on Dustin Byfuglien, right? Especially with the NHL Trade Deadline coming up, the Winnipeg Jets and general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff are likely looking for some clarity on just what to expect from Big Buff and how it relates to the Jets Salary Cap status which has been in limbo all season while Byfuglien’s $7.5 million dollar contract has loomed large.
Well, as per Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the team and all of us may be able to move on from this story… at least until the Summer anyway.
This could open up the Jets cap situation if they wish to make moves….they've had to "hold" his $7.6M hit until they knew his plans.
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) February 2, 2020
This seems to paint a bit of a different picture from what we last heard a few weeks ago when TSN’s Darren Dreger suggested that Byfuglien was at the point in his recovery where it was ready to be tested on the ice. Three weeks after that report, we now find out that has still yet to happen.
That he has yet to even get on the ice now puts the idea of a previously suggested February return almost completely out of the question. March would still be possible but at that point there would be a question if it was even worth it from either the side of the Jets or Byfuglien, let alone what it would take to get him back into actual game shape while every other player on the ice would be in late-season / playoff mode which is a far cry from how players are when they first get back on the ice in September and October.
There is also still the matter of the arbitration needing to be done between the NHL and the NHLPA who both have a keen interest in settling the initial dispute between the Jets and Byfuglien that may not even really be so much of a dispute as a misunderstanding, but could very well be a dispute.
Also, does Dustin Byfuglien still want to play hockey? Does he want to play hockey for the Winnipeg Jets? Do the Winnipeg Jets want him to play hockey for them? These are all unknowns as well.
As Friedman states, the idea that all of this could be “shelved” until the off-season would mean that the Jets could at least be confident in bringing in a player via a trade – if that is the route they want to go – without having to worry about a Byfuglien return which would them circumvent the Salary Cap. having Byfuglien’s salary off the books completely would actually be a huge door opened and could allow the Jets to get aggressive in perusing bigger ticket players even on a rental basis.
(Not saying they should go for a rental by the way, just saying the option would be there)
It’s hard to say when exactly we’ll have final say on his status for the 2019-20 season, but with the Trade Deadline just 22 days away, expect it soon.