Byfuglien leave of absence adds more uncertainty for Jets

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Things already seemed potentially bumpy for the Winnipeg Jets heading into 2019-20, and now it’s unclear how long it will take for Dustin Byfuglien to sort out a personal situation.

The Jets announced on Friday that Byfuglien has been granted a leave of absence, and head coach Paul Maurice wasn’t able to provide a potential timeline for Byfuglien’s return. The most Maurice could provide was that it would interrupt the team’s next opportunity to skate, but beyond that, it seems unclear.

Maurice did assert that nothing “sinister” is going on, and noted that Byfuglien and his family are healthy.

After a frustrating end to 2018-19, there are quite a few factors that indicate that things could start off a little shaky:

  • Again, Byfuglien might “miss some games” … or not. Either way, Byfuglien hopes to put behind last season, where he was limited to 42 regular-season appearances (and six playoff games).
  • Key RFAs Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor still are without contracts at this moment. It’s unclear when their negotiations will be settled, and if they’ll stretch into the actual regular season.
  • Winnipeg lost some significant pieces during this offseason, undoubtedly in part to make room for Laine and Connor, with Jacob Trouba, Kevin Hayes, and Tyler Myers being the most notable losses.
  • Their schedule might also contribute to a bumpy beginning. The Jets begin 2019-20 on a four-game road trip, and play five of their first six games away from home. Such a stretch doesn’t guarantee struggles — especially if the Rangers (Oct. 3) and Devils (Oct. 4) remain works in progress — but on paper, it does seem like a challenge amidst all of that upheaval.

It will also be interesting to see how well Byfuglien plays, whenever he’s ready to return.

Byfuglien managed four goals and 31 points last season, which is pretty impressive considering that he produced that much offense in just 42 games. Byfuglien’s underlying numbers were excellent to boot.

That said, it remains to be seen if Byfuglien can stay on the ice with better consistency (assuming he can work out the off-the-ice matters he’s currently dealing with). As a truly unique physical presence, it’s been interesting to see him age quite well so far, but you never know if a big, Byfuglien-sized drop might come soon, as he’s already 34.

Overall, both the Jets and Byfuglien face a bit more uncertainty than they’ve carried in quite some time, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the player and the team both managed to pull off a strong 2019-20 … even if a bumpy start also seems plausible.

• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.