Early this month, it appeared as if the Jets and defenseman Dustin Byfuglien were on their way to a mutual contract termination as a resolution to his current grievance for the team suspending him without pay for leaving training camp early on and ultimately undergoing ankle surgery back in late October. However, that has yet to materialize and now we know why as TSN’s Frank Seravalli reports that Winnipeg is currently attempting to trade him.
It’s yet another odd development in what has been a very strange situation. At one point, it was believed that Byfuglien was contemplating retirement and at the beginning of February, it was reported that it’s unlikely that he will play this season. He has yet to resume skating which means the last time he skated was at or slightly before the beginning of training camp. On the surface, it is difficult to see why a team would want to take a chance on him.
It’s worth noting that a team that’s interested in him for this season can’t wait until he’s bought out after the trade deadline to bring him in for the stretch run and postseason. For a player to be eligible to play in the playoffs, he has to be on the Reserve List by the time the deadline passes so if someone wants to take a shot at him this season, they will have to trade for him by Monday.
There would certainly be some risk associated with making such a trade. While it’s true that if Byfuglien didn’t report, he’d remain suspended without pay and the acquiring team could pursue a contract termination this summer. However, as the 34-year-old has another year left on his deal at $7.6MM, any team interested in him would need to have the pro-rated cap space to take him on this year (if he eventually reported) as well as be able to afford him next season. Considering how long it has been since he last played, that would be a bit of a gamble.
Having said that, it’s one that could certainly pan out as Byfuglien was a high-impact player as recently as last year. His physicality could come in handy in the postseason and he has been a strong offensive performer in the past as well. There would certainly be some upside to the move if a team is willing to take the chance by adding him which Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is now assessing. If nothing happens by Monday, then the Jets will likely proceed with the contract termination soon after.