Carl Dahlstrom

Report: Jets, Byfuglien working toward contract termination

The Winnipeg Jets and defenseman Dustin Byfuglien are headed toward a solution.

According to a report from TSN’s Frank Seravalli, the Jets and Byfuglien are closing in on a mutual contract termination that will officially end his time with the franchise.

Byfuglien has not played for the Jets this season after stepping away from the team just before training camp to contemplate his future. The Jets officially suspended him, while Byfuglien filed a grievance in November arguing that he should have still been paid as he was recovering from a hockey injury.  He underwent ankle surgery in October.

He has played for the organization since the start of the 2010-11 season when it was still based in Atlanta.

During his time with the team has been one of the league’s most productive offensive defensemen and the foundation of the Jets’ blue line. He was limited to just 42 games a year ago due to injury, but the Jets were still planning on him playing a significant role on this year’s team. But as training camp approached he stepped away from the team, leaving an already undermanned Jets’ defense without its best and most impactful player.

That came after the Jets had traded Jacob Trouba to the New York Rangers and saw Tyler Myers and Ben Chiarot exit in free agency.

If the two sides eventually come to an agreement on a contract termination, Byfuglien would become an unrestricted free agent, while the Jets would clear a significant amount of salary cap space before the trade deadline and for next season. Byfuglien’s current contract carries a salary cap hit of $7.6 million per season.

What comes next for Jets, Byfuglien

The big thing here for the Jets is that it would finally give them some clarity on their defense, what they need, and what they have to work with.

They would know for sure that Byfuglien is not returning, and it would also create a ton of salary cap flexibility for the offseason to fill that spot and upgrade the entire position. As of now, the only defensemen the Jets have under contract for next season are Josh Morrissey, Neal Poink, Tucker Poolman, and Carl Dahlstrom. Not exactly a great situation. While Morrissey and Poink figure to be long-term pieces, Poolman and Dahlmstrom are both in their mid-20s and have limited NHL experience.

It would also create a serious of questions for Byfuglien that still need to be answered.

That includes whether or not he is healthy enough to play this season and if he actually wants to play this season. If the answer to both of those questions are yes, he could still be a potential difference-maker in the stretch run and into the playoffs assuming he is healthy. The age and health situation are legitimate concerns, but he was still one of the top point-producing defenseman in the league just last season when he was on the ice.

Putting him on a contending lineup (without having to give up anything in return) would be a pretty big addition for someone if it happens.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

 

Perreault sounds off on NHL Player Safety after Virtanen hit

Perreault Player Safety criticism Rask Kassian Tkachuk
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Jets forward Mathieu Perreault went on a profane tirade about Canucks winger Jake Virtanen avoiding supplemental discipline for an errant elbow. Perreault blasted the NHL’s Department of Player Safety in detailed and colorful ways, and it’s “get your popcorn” territory.

“Player safety, my a–,” Perreault said to various media members, including Ted Wyman of the Winnipeg Sun.

“This is literally an elbow to the face of a guy that didn’t have the puck. I can’t really protect myself if the league’s not going to protect me. I’m the smallest guy in the ice so I can’t really fight anybody. The only thing I can do to defend myself is use my stick so the next guy that does that to me is gonna get my f—ing stick. And I better not get suspended for it.”

Check out footage of the hit in question:

Perreault isn’t the only one blasting Player Safety

Perreault fumed after the Tuesday game (a 4-0 win for the Jets) and that feeling clearly didn’t subside much with time. It sure seems like the grumbling has been building lately about what draws supplemental discipline, and what does not.

It doesn’t sound like anything is coming down the pike for Emil Bemstrom of the Blue Jackets, who concussed Bruins Tuukka Rask on Tuesday:

Perreault’s warning about swinging around his blankety blanking stick also isn’t the only recent version of a player saying “Well, if they can get away with, I guess I can too.” Ponder Zack Kassian‘s quotes about Matthew Tkachuk avoiding a suspension for controversial hits, and feel free to use ominous background music:

“For sure they are going to watch the game, but I think I can do what Matthew Tkachuk did if the league is saying it is clean,” Kassian said, via Jason Gregor’s transcription. “I can do exactly that. I didn’t think you were allowed to, but after speaking with George apparently you are allowed. That is fine. That is great news. I’m a big guy who can skate and I can do that kind of stuff.”

That big gulp you heard might have been from George Parros, who could have a mess on his hands when the Flames face the Oilers again. Or any time Perreault feels like he must defend himself with his (bad word[s]) stick.

While Perreault stews about this personal grievance, the Jets need him to stay cool. With Carl Dahlstrom the latest defenseman out with a significant injury, Winnipeg cannot afford to take bad penalties. Even if Perreault deploys the same great vengeance and furious anger, righteous or not.

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

Jets’ defense takes yet another blow ahead of game vs. Penguins

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When the Winnipeg Jets had their 2018-19 season end this past April, their defense was made up of the following players: Dustin Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba, Josh Morrissey, Tyler Myers, Ben Chiarot, and Dmitry Kulikov. Not a great group by any means, but a formidable one that was good enough to help make the Jets a playoff team.

How many of those players will be in the lineup for them on Tuesday night when they visit the Pittsburgh Penguins?

Zero.

None of them.

Due to a series of roster moves and unfortunate circumstances the entire defense the team used a year ago is not available as the team prepares to open its current four-game road trip.

Trouba, Myers, and Chiarot all left the team over the summer (Trouba was traded to the Rangers; Myers and Chiarot departed in free agency), while Byfuglien stepped away just before the start of training camp to reportedly consider his future in the NHL.

All of that alone was enough to decimate their blue line.

The departures continued on Tuesday when the Jets announced that Kulikov has been given a personal leave from the team.

Morrissey, meanwhile, suffered an injury during warmups before the team’s most recent game against the New York Islanders and was held out of Sunday’s game. After practicing on Monday, coach Paul Maurice announced on Tuesday that the team is going to hold Morrissey out for at least another game (Tuesday in Pittsburgh) as a precaution.

This all means the Jets’ defense on Tuesday is going to include Sami Niku, Carl Dahlstrom, Neal Pionk, Ville Heinola, Anthony Bitetto and Tucker Poolman.

Combined NHL games for those six players: 350.

Heinola, 18, was the team’s first-round draft pick this past season and has played just three games so far, while Dahlstrom was claimed on waivers a week ago from the Chicago Blackhawks. Pionk is the “experienced” member of that group and was acquired over the summer from the Rangers in the Trouba trade. Calling that group a “makeshift defense” would be a monumental understatement.

Even though they are facing a Penguins team that is without two of its top three centers (Evgeni Malkin and Nick Bjugstad) it is still a dangerous team offensively with the Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel occupying the top line.

The Jets’ defense was always going to be a massive question mark this season, and it just seems to keep finding ways to get even more shorthanded. Starting goalie Connor Hellebuyck is going to need to play the best hockey of his career to keep this thing together.

MORE:
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.