The Winnipeg Jets have signed Defenceman Dustin Byfuglien to a 5 year contract extension with an average annual value of 7.6 million dollars. Byfuglien was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
According to reports, talks between the Jets and Byfuglien’s agent Ben Hankinson picked up steam over the weekend and culminated with Monday’s signing. GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, maintaining a club policy of not divulging any details of the negotiation, did admit the urgency always ramps up as a deal gets closer to being finalized. And Byfuglien shared with reporters after practice in St. Louis, the last couple of days had been anxious ones. “Talking to my agent (Ben Hankinson) way too much,” said an obviously relieved Byfuglien. “I stayed out of it, didn’t really have too much say. The last couple of days there were minor tweaks.”
Byfuglien is 13th in league scoring among NHL Defencemen with 15 goals and 17 assists for 32 points. He had 4-3-7 in the final 4 games of the team’s recently completed h0mestand before having his points streak snapped in Saturday’s 4-2 win at Colorado.
But Head Coach Paul Maurice says there is so much more to how Byfuglien impacts the hockey team, and organization. “The joy that you should have playing in the National Hockey League and the fun that you should have been around a rink is what he brings every day,” Maurice told Jets TV. “You’ve got some big question marks in the room and that one’s off the books now and we can move forward. We look a whole lot different when Dustin’s not in our lineup. It’s a big piece of our future secured.”
It’s believed Byfuglien and his camp had originally been asking for an 8 year deal. The 7.6 million dollar annual salary makes Byfuglien the highest paid Jet ahead of leading scorer ahead of blueline partner Toby Enstom (5.75M) and leading scorer Blake Wheeler (5.6M). GM Kevin Cheveldayoff says while the signing of Byfuglien is impactful it’s still only a piece of a larger puzzle. “You don’t deal with any one thing in singular fashion,” said Cheveldayoff. And then was asked if there is enough of the pie left to re-sign Captain Andrew Ladd. “With all the moving parts and the projection it’s hard to say for sure where everything falls into place.”
The NHL trading deadline is 3 weeks away on February 29th.