Plenty of players had “breakthrough” seasons in 2010-11, but few have futures that are tougher to peg than Dustin Byfuglien’s next campaign. Simply put, there aren’t a whole lot of players who can compare to the feast-or-famine approach that the hybrid defenseman brings to the Winnipeg Jets.
Byfuglien is primed to enter the first year of a five-year contract that will register a $5.2 million annual cap hit (although his salary will be $4.25 million in 11-12). That signing was actually one of the last moves of the Atlanta Thrashers’ era, which makes it easy to wonder whether the Jets management team is fully behind the oversized blueliner. The fact that he’s dealing with an embarrassing legal situation that remains unsettled cannot really help matters, either.
While those criticisms seem reasonable, Winnipeg Free Press reporter Gary Lawless doesn’t think that the team will try to trade the 2011 All-Star.
Dustin Byfuglien is a big part of the picture for the Winnipeg Jets and they won’t be trading him despite some of the talk orbiting around the team right now.
A league source told the Free Press this week the Jets are not interested in offers for Byfuglien and he’s fully expected to be in Winnipeg when main camp begins a week from today.
Despite the bad press surrounding the talented defenceman there’s absolutely no impetus for the club to make a deal from a position of weakness.
There was an expectation that Minnesota officials would make a decision shortly after Labor Day regarding whether or not they’ll charge Byfuglien with a BWI or something else related to that recent incident, but charges haven’t been made yet. Lawless writes that the lack of a charge (so far) might be an “optimal outcome” for Byfuglien and the Jets.
While people will probably add the charges to their Byfuglien heckling repertoire (along with the requisite fat jokes), Paul Friesen reports that the big blueliner will still command respect from his teammates.
In the first reaction from a teammate to the star defenceman’s arrest on suspicion of boating while impaired, veteran goalie Chris Mason says there’s no reason Big Buff won’t continue to be a leader and key contributor on the Jets.
“No reason, whatsoever,” Mason told the Sun, Friday. “Anyone that I’ve ever known has made mistakes, small or big or whatever they may be. I’m a strong believer in redemption and being able to prove yourself.
“I know the kind of guy he is. He’s going to do everything he can to redeem himself. He’ll still be a huge contributor, leadership-wise and on the ice for our team.”
Byfuglien and the Jets probably hope that they’ll see more of the 2010 version of Byfuglien (Stanley Cup winner, high-scoring defenseman) than what they’ve seen from the 2011 model so far (second half slump, weight and legal issues). Such a turnaround might not curb all the one-liners from opposing fans, but maintaining respect from his teammates is more important than silencing snarky comments.