Would the Jets be better off with Byfuglien on defense?

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When it comes to Winnipeg Jets defenseman/forward/science experiment on ice Dustin Byfuglien, it’s easy to overlook the positives and linger on negative headlines about his weight and defensive acumen.

Let there be no doubt about it, though: there are few (if any) players quite like Byfuglien. Erik Karlsson is the only defenseman who has topped Byfuglien’s 190 points since Big Buff was traded to then-Atlanta before the 2010-11 season.

Of course, it’s probably not accurate to call him a defenseman … at least not now. The question is: should Jets head coach Paul Maurice move him back to the blueline, though?

It’s a question that’s probably a little more complicated than both sides of the argument might think.

Why they might want to move him back to D

Arctic Ice Hockey generated some compelling and pretty stark comparisons between “Byfuglien the forward” and “Byfuglien the defenseman.” You don’t need to squint your eyes to see the dramatic statistical differences between the 29-year-old’s superior work from the blueline vs. his time as one of the team’s forwards. If nothing else, that same site made a reasonable argument that “Buffy the Hamburger Slayer” might not have been used in the most ideal forward combinations.

Ultimately, it’s unclear if Byfuglien can be effective as a forward, while he’s been an All-Star as a defenseman. Even if you have doubts about his positioning/”hockey IQ,” there’s a growing school of thought that the best defense is to be on offense more often … and Byfuglien (the defenseman) might just be a poster child for that movement.

Beyond that thought, there’s also a rather simple extra argument in favor of moving him back to D: he’d probably log more ice time. That’s really Maurice’s call to make, but defensemen generally find themselves getting more reps and it’s best to have your superior players on the ice more often than not …

Forward-thinking

  • The Jets might simply believe that he’s more of an upgrade over the forward he’s moving down the lineup than the defenseman he’d shuffle around. With some promising pieces like Jacob Trouba emerging, it’s not unreasonable to make such an argument.
  • As he gets older, questions about his mobility will only increase. Risk-averse coaches will likely feel more comfortable with Byfuglien receiving fewer responsibilities.
  • Moving a player like Byfuglien from the crease is a foreboding task, and while he can still get into position to screen goalies as a “rover,” it’s a more reasonable proposition as a traditional forward.

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In the interest of avoiding poll fatigue, let’s hash this out in the comments. Which move is in Winnipeg’s best interest: keeping Byfuglien at forward or on defense? Or should Maurice just throw a dart before each game? So many options …

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Brendan Smith still talking to Rangers, ‘trying to make it happen’

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It’s only a few days until July 1 and defenseman Brendan Smith still doesn’t have an extension in place with the New York Rangers.

Not to worry, says his agent. It doesn’t necessarily mean that Smith is going to sign elsewhere.

“No one should read anything into the fact that we don’t have a deal yet,” Anton Thun told the New York Post. “You’re never really close until it’s done, but both sides are trying to make it happen. We’ll have to see.”

Thun told the Post a month ago that Smith, an unrestricted free agent, was “open” to returning to the Rangers.

But there’s also been speculation that the Blueshirts will pursue Kevin Shattenkirk in free agency, which would probably mean less money available for Smith.

It remains to be seen if the Rangers will, indeed, make a big push for Shattenkirk. The addition of Anthony DeAngelo in the Derek Stepan trade may have lessened their urgency in that regard.

“He’s a puck-moving right-handed defenseman that can run the power play and shoot the puck,” GM Jeff Gorton said of DeAngelo, per Sporting News.

Which sounds a lot like Shattenkirk, no?

Smith, 28, was traded to the Rangers from Detroit on Feb. 28.

Sens extend McCormick — two years, $1.3 million

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Looks as though forward Max McCormick has a future in Ottawa.

On Tuesday, the Sens signed McCormick to a two-year extension worth $650,000 annually — and, perhaps most importantly, it’s a one-way deal in the second year.

McCormick, 25, also has a $250,000 guaranteed AHL salary next season.

The deal comes after he set a career high and tied for the AHL Binghamton team lead in goals last year, with 21. McCormick also appeared in seven games for Ottawa — this after playing 20 in ’15-16 — and emerged as a high-energy guy with an edge to his game.

Despite not being overly big (5-foot-11, 188 pounds), McCormick fought seven times for Binghamton last season, and led the team in penalty minutes. The year prior, he scrapped 12 times between the Sens and Baby Sens.

A spot at the NHL level could soon materialize. The Sens have already announced they’re moving on from free agent forward Chris Neil, and the futures of fellow UFAs Viktor Stalberg, Chris Kelly and Tommy Wingels remain uncertain.

Carolina re-signs Chelios, Brown

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The ‘Canes retained some organizational depth on Tuesday, agreeing to terms with defenseman Jake Chelios — the son of Hockey Hall of Famer Chris Chelios — and forward Patrick Brown.

Brown’s contract is a one-year, $650,000 extension, one that will pay $160,000 at the AHL level, with a guarantee of $190,000.

Brown, 25, split last season between Charlotte and Carolina, appearing in a career-high 14 contest with the ‘Canes. The Boston College product scored 12 goals and 28 points in 66 games with the Checkers.

Chelios, 26, has yet to make his NHL debut but is coming off a strong season with Charlotte. He served as an alternate captain and had a strong offensive campaign, with 32 points in 76 contests. That led all Checkers d-men in scoring, and he was the only player on the team to appear in every single game this season.

Like Brown, Chelios’ deal will pay $650,000 at the NHL level. It’s $85,000 at the AHL level.

Report: Sens tried to get Methot back from Vegas

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The Ottawa Senators did their best to make sure they didn’t lose Marc Methot in the expansion draft.

They attempted to get Dion Phaneuf to waive his no-move clause so they could keep Methot, but that didn’t work out.

On Monday, TSN hockey analyst Pierre LeBrun reported that the Golden Knights and Senators had been talking about a potential trade back to Ottawa.

In the end, Vegas GM George McPhee preferred to ship him to Dallas for 2017 seventh-rounder Dylan Ferguson and a second-round pick in 2020.

According to beat reporter Bruce Garrioch, Vegas’ asking price to allow the Sens to protect Methot before expansion was a 2018 first-round pick.

Methot has averaged at least 19:49 of ice time during his five seasons in Ottawa.

In the end, all this means is that the Senators will need to find someone else to play on the top pairing with Erik Karlsson next season.

During training camp, Ottawa put top prospect Thomas Chabot with Karlsson. They opted to send Chabot back to junior, but that could be an interesting combination if they think he’s ready to be a regular in the NHL.