The Winnipeg Jets and defenceman Dustin Byfuglien have parted ways. The team announced that they are, effective immediately, terminating his contract. Fans will recall this has been an ongoing saga related to Byfuglien’s health evaluation after the 2018-19 postseason and subsequent injury. The NHL’s Public Relations Department announced the news.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) April 17, 2020
Jets and Dustin Byfuglien Part Ways
This was an ugly situation but both sides finally have closure. Byfuglien is free to sign with a team of his choosing. The 34-ear-old will try to restart a career that has seen him score 177 goals and 525 points in 869 games. He scored a respectable four goals and 31 points in 42 games last year. He is still a good player but injuries and age are catching up to the veteran.
There was very little chance that Byfuglien would return to the Jets. He was ruled healthy following last year’s postseason but failed to report to training camp. He asked for time off but Winnipeg suspended him and froze his pay because they needed it for active players. Byfuglien filed a grievance to recoup the frozen money. He also revealed he had ankle surgery and had a broken foot but there was nothing found in the pre-postseason health check. The NHL intervened and helped move the process towards arbitration. It is possible Byfuglien injured himself but that is a separate issue from not reporting to work.
What This Means for the Future
Byfuglien will leave the team after eight productive seasons. He could find a new job but very few teams will risk a significant amount of money on an ageing skater who caused the amount of grief he has caused. It also seems unlikely he retires. He wanted to play this year but didn’t for the reasons specified above.
The Jets remove the remainder of Byfuglien’s contract. The money could go towards a trade acquisition but Winnipeg has faded in the Central Division. The team could opt to hold on to the money and use it to sign a premier free agent this summer.
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