With a need to protect their roster and salary cap flexibility, the Winnipeg Jets have suspended defenseman Dustin Byfuglien for not reporting to camp, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie. An expected move for the Jets, the team will lose his cap hit until the veteran blueliner reports.
McKenzie reports that the paperwork has been filed to suspend Byfuglien, but it can be reversed at any time. McKenzie adds that Byfuglien is aware of the Winnipeg transaction and it is just looked at as a formality as the team waits for the blueliner to decide on his future in the league. The 34-year-old asked Winnipeg at the start of training camp for a leave of absence although no reason was given. However, three days ago, it was revealed that the veteran was actually contemplating his future and retirement is certainly an option for him.
Injuries did play a part for Byfuglien last season as he dealt with a concussion amongst several injuries and only appeared 42 games last season. He has two years remaining on a five-year, $38MM contract that pays him $7.6MM per year. With the suspension in place, the team will not have his cap hit affect the team, which CapFriendly now projects at $23MM in available cap space. The team might need that money, however, as the team still has two key restricted free agents looking to sign, including Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor. Both are asking for a major pay raise, which in theory, could now be paid out with the available cap space the Byfuglien has given the team.
Of course, Byfuglien could opt to return at any point and then the Jets would have to lift their suspension and then would be responsible for fitting that $7.6MM into their cap.