In one of the most confusing and mysterious storylines of the season, some light might have been shed on the status of Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that Byfuglien has yet to resume skating with the “most likely” outcome being that he won’t play at all this season, which will force the Jets to revisit his future with the franchise this summer.
Byfuglien has not played all season and has been suspended without pay for the 2019-20 season. He indicated just as preseason began that he was taking a leave of absence due to undisclosed personal reasons. Then in late October, Byfuglien had ankle surgery, to the surprise of many, which explains why he hasn’t skated yet. On top of that, with the help of the NHLPA, Byfuglien filed a grievance against the Jets in November, which has not happened yet and remains up in the air.
The news has other positive implications for general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and the Jets. Assuming Friedman’s report is accurate and Byfuglien is deemed out for the season, then the Jets would have plenty of money at the trade deadline to add some of that necessary depth that the team has been lacking this season. While Byfuglien’s cap hit of $7.6MM is not affecting the team’s salary cap status at the moment, the team has been saving their cap space on the chance that Byfuglien would be ready and willing to return to their lineup. With the trade deadline just over three weeks away, however, Winnipeg needs to have some closure on Byfuglien’s status before it can make any deadline moves. The Jets could have as much as $21.935MM in deadline cap space due to the number of injuries on the team, although several of those players are likely to return before the season ends.
Of course, Winnipeg currently sits four points out of playoff spot, which means the next three weeks will also play a big role on whether the team should consider buying, standing still or potentially selling.