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.