Despite his $5.2 million cap hit, Dustin Byfuglien heads into this season as the highest paid member of the Winnipeg Jets taking home $6 million in salary and could hit the open market next July.
According to Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun, Byfuglien is looking for a long-term deal of more than $7 million per season as an unrestricted free agent.
If the 30-year-old is going to command those kinds of numbers from the Jets, or anyone else for that matter, he’ll need to prove he’s worth it.
Winnipeg was shorthanded a league-leading 308 times last season and Byfuglien was the face of the problem leading the way with 124 penalty minutes – good for seventh most in the entire league. It’s not exactly a category you want one of your leaders, and highest paid players, leading.
As the Jets were battling for a playoff spot in April, Byfuglien was suspended four games for his cross check on Rangers’ forward J.T. Miller.
His questionable play continued in the playoffs when he hit Corey Perry from behind following a goal.
Byfuglien certainly gives Paul Maurice options as he’s capable of playing both on defense and up front, but has been a liability on the back end, which led his former coach Claude Noel to use him as a forward in 2014. Even Maurice thought he was better suited there leaving him as a forward to start last season.
The 6-foot-5, 265-pound blue liner’s inconsistent play and contract status coupled with the young talent the Jets have on the blue line (Jacob Trouba and Josh Morrissey) could make him expendable.
Byfuglien is under pressure to prove he should be paid the money he’s looking for in his new deal.
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Even on the “hockey players are tough” scale, recovering from a skull fracture and brain contusion is pretty astonishing.
It sounds like New York Rangers winger Mats Zuccarello is pulling that off.
Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault told NHL.com on Friday that Zuccarello should be ready for training camp in September.
“I’ve heard he’s 100 percent from our medical staff,” Vigneault said. “He’s been cleared to skate and have contact. He’s made a full recovery so we’re very pleased about that. He’s a big part of our team.”
A Ryan McDonagh shot hit the 27-year-old in the head during Game 5 of the Rangers’ first-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Here’s a video clip of that very unfortunate moment:
To little surprise, the small scorer didn’t return to the playoffs, although it appeared as though he gave it multiple tries.
That’s a courageous showing considering symptoms that included the following: loss of speech, brain bleeding and a three-day hospital stay.
Seriously, when you consider all he went through, let’s hope that he’s genuinely 100 percent before he returns to the ice. If so, it’s a truly remarkable recovery, even by hockey standards.
Looks like the broken foot Ryan McDonagh suffered during the Eastern Conference Final won’t affect him heading into next season.
“It’s safe to say it’s getting better every day and feeling pretty much 100 percent at this point now,” the Rangers captain told NHL.com. “We said June 1 was the starting date, so we’re more than two-and-a-half months in. I’m back skating on the ice, doing leg strength stuff in the weight room, running and jumping.
“I’m really trying to put it all behind me now and gear up here for the start of training camp.”
McDonagh broke the foot during Game 4 of the Lightning series but continued to play (though he did miss the start of Game 7, as trainers worked to get his foot feeling right in his skate.) Team doctors decided against surgery at the end of the year, opting instead for the walking-boot-and-crutches approach.
McDonagh got rid of the crutches and boot in July, and began skating on Aug. 1. Per NHL.com, his plan is to return to New York on Sept. 1 — he’s currently at his home in Minnesota — and spend some time prepping in the Big Apple prior to training camp.