Jamal Mayers

Jamal Mayers wants to be the missing piece in Chicago, win his first Stanley Cup

Whenever you see a team winning the Stanley Cup and you take a look at their roster to see just who helped them reach hockey’s ultimate prize, there’s always one or two players who may not have found the stat sheet too often that helped lead the charge. Would the Bruins have been so successful last spring without the efforts of Daniel Paille on the penalty kill or Chris Kelly stepping up? It’s debatable.

Role players do their part for every team to bring them success and one guy that’s hoping to play that part is Jamal Mayers. Mayers played a tough role for the San Jose Sharks last season, but this year he brings his sandpaper-like game to Chicago with the newly toughened up Blackhawks. For the soon-to-be 37 year-old forward, he’d like to be one of those “missing piece” type players to help bring the Stanley Cup back to Chicago.

Chris Kuc of The Chicago Tribune caught up with Mayers to see what the 13-year veteran would like to do in his suddenly thrilling situation in the Windy City and what GM Stan Bowman is looking for out of him.

“I realize what my role is,” said Mayers, who had 124 penalty minutes in 78 games with the Sharks last season. “I want to create energy, be physical, use my speed and put some pressure on the other team’s defense.

“I like to think I’m a good teammate in the sense that I stick up for guys when it has to happen. It’s a physical sport and you want to allow your skill players to do their work. Sometimes you have to send a message and be physical on the other team’s top players as well.”

Mayers is part of the wave of physical players Bowman stockpiled from the free-agent market — including Daniel Carcillo and Sean O’Donnell — with the GM saying, “When you come to line up against the Blackhawks you know what you’re going to get. We’re going to come to play.”

We’ve talked a lot about Chicago’s rediscovered toughness this offseason. Everyone from Bowman to Patrick Kane have been raving about how tough the team is going to be this season compared to last and that’s all by design. Mayers has been one of those gritty irritating players through his whole career from his days in St. Louis on through stops in Toronto, Calgary, and San Jose. Getting a shot with a team that is certainly going to be one of the best in the Western Conference is something Mayers got used to last season with the Sharks.

With Mayers mixed in with the likes of Carcillo, O’Donnell, and Steve Montador gives Chicago the particular kind of snarl that helps teams in the West when it comes to playoff time. As long as he’s cozy in his role as a third or fourth line guy, the Blackhawks will have all parts of the game there to touch on. One thing’s for sure, as long as the injury bug stays away, Chicago is going to be a major pain to deal with. For Mayers, he’d like to see it all pay off in his first Stanley Cup. At his age, this might be his best chance yet to lift the hardware at season’s end.

Eaves to stick with Benn, Seguin on Dallas’ top line

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Patrick Eaves‘ cameo alongside the dynamic duo of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin looks like it’ll continue at least one more game.

Eaves, who along with Benn assisted on Seguin’s goal in Saturday’s loss to Chicago, practiced on Dallas’ top line today and should be there tomorrow when the Stars take on the Wild.

“Seguin, Benn and Eaves were in on 11 chances [Saturday against Chicago],” head coach Lindy Ruff explained, per the Stars’ website. They could have three or four [goals]. They should have had three or four. We missed too many good opportunities.”

This latest development is a positive in what’s been a tough year for Eaves. He was hurt early in the season after an awkward fall against the Oilers — a game in which he opened on the club’s top line, next to Benn and Seguin.

All told, he has just three goals and six points in 33 games.

Last year, Eaves was plagued with concussion issues but still managed to produce well, scoring 14 goals and 27 points in just 47 games.

After re-upping in Winnipeg, Byfuglien says leaving ‘never really crossed my mind’

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There was some speculation Dustin Byfuglien would be out of Winnipeg by the Feb. 29 trade deadline or, failing that, when free agency hit on July 1.

But according to him, leaving was never really an option.

“I’ve been here five years and from where we’ve started and where we’re at now, I don’t feel as an organization or a group that we’re far off,” Byfuglien told TSN 1290 on Monday, after inking a big five-year, $38 million extension with the Jets. “My family and I have found Winnipeg nice, and we’re very happy to stay here.

“It never really crossed my mind of going anywhere, and I’m excited to be a Jet.”

Prior to this extension, though, some thought leaving had definitely crossed Byfuglien’s mind.

Back in mid-December, the Free Press reported his initial ask was a whopping eight-year, $55 million deal. Some viewed that as his first potential step out the door.

It would’ve been big money and a lot of term for the Jets to commit, especially given 1) Byfuglien is 30, 2) the team still hasn’t signed captain Andrew Ladd, and 3) the club has some prized youngsters that need new deals this summer, specifically Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba. (In that same Free Press report, Trouba’s ask was $56 million over eight years.)

Then, there was Byfuglien at All-Star weekend.

When asked about his future — sign, trade or head to free agency? — Byfuglien said he had “no problem” with Winnipeg, adding “I just want to put on a jersey, to be honest with you.”

Some, like TSN’s Frank Seravalli, who was in attendance for the Byfuglien media scrum, noted the response “did not exactly sound like a ringing endorsement.”

Of course, Byfuglien later clarified his remarks following the All-Star Game.

“Yeah, I’d love to,” he told reporters when asked about re-signing in Winnipeg. “I’ve met a lot of good people and now some really good friends. I’ve been here for a long time. You never want to leave home. I’ve been here long enough; my family has been here and I’ve had two kids here.

“It’s somewhere you don’t want to leave.”

And now — well, for the next five years anyway — Byfuglien won’t have to.

Video: Jets’ Stafford suspended one game for ‘forceful, reckless’ high-stick

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The NHL has dinged Winnipeg forward Drew Stafford one game for his ugly high stick on Colorado’s Nick Holden over the weekend.

“While we accept Stafford’s assertion that he did not intentionally strike Holden in the face, he is responsible for the consequences of swinging his stick in such a forceful and reckless fashion,” the Department of Player Safety explained.

Stafford, who wasn’t penalized on the play, will now miss Winnipeg’s next game — tonight, in St. Louis — and will be eligible to return on Thursday when the Jets host the Bruins.

Stafford will also forfeit $23,387.10 in salary to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

Big Buff, Big Bucks: Jets ink Byfuglien to five-year, $38 million extension

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One of the most prized trade deadline targets is no longer.

On Monday, Winnipeg locked in pending UFA d-man Dustin Byfuglien to a five-year, $38 million extension, one that carries a $7.6M cap hit and makes him the highest-paid player on the team.

Byfuglien, 30, was in the last of a five-year, $26 million deal with a $5.2M average annual cap hit. One of the league’s most unique players — a 6-foot-5, 265 pounder that’s played forward and defense, and participated in this year’s fastest skater All-Star skills competition — his bio from the Jets’ release pretty much sums up how much he means to the club:

[Byfuglien] has recorded 32 points (15G, 17A) so far this season while appearing in all 52 games and sits in a tie for second amongst all NHL defencemen with his 15 goals.

Byfuglien leads the Jets so far this season in shots (163), penalty minutes (78) and ice time (24:14 per game).

The native of Roseau, MN, was named to the 2016 NHL All-Star Game in Nashville, TN where he recorded a goal and an assist for the Central Division team.

Byfuglien has been named to the All-Star Game in each of the last four seasons that the game has taken place (2011, 2012, 2015, 2016).

The deal keeps Byfuglien in Winnipeg through 2022 and is the latest long-term deal on the blueline: Tobias Enstrom is at $5.75M per through 2018, and Tyler Myers is at $5.5M per through ’19. Byfuglien’s deal also comes after some questioned how badly he wanted to stay in Winnipeg — at All-Star weekend, he raised eyebrows by responding “I just want to put on a jersey, to be honest with you,” when asked about his playing future.

The five-year term is also down from Byfuglien’s reported original ask, which was $55 million over eight years.

With this move done, Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff can now turn his attention to another prized pending UFA: Andrew Ladd, the club’s captain and another player that’s believed to have high interest around the league as a trade deadline rental.