Latest on Dustin Byfuglien and  Jiri Hudler, plus an update on the St. Louis Blues in your NHL rumor mill. 

Can the Jets afford Byfuglien?

Jets defensemanDustin Byfuglien's UFA status raises questions over his future in Winnipeg.

Jets defensemanDustin Byfuglien’s UFA status raises questions over his future in Winnipeg.

TSN 1200 (VIA TODAY’S SLAPSHOT):  Bob McKenzie believes re-signing defenseman Dustin Byfuglien could be difficult for the Winnipeg Jets. He cites Byfuglien’s age (30), $5.2 million cap hit (he’s earning $6 million in actual salary this season) and the club’s need to re-sign RFAs Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba. McKenzie feels Byfuglien could earn over $7 million annually on the open market and doubts the Jets are willing to go that high to retain him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets also have to consider re-signing team captain Andrew Ladd. In my opinion, he is more valuable to them than Byfuglien. Ladd brings leadership, valuable playoff experience (he’s played for Stanley Cup winners in Carolina and Chicago) and scoring depth at left wing.

The Jets, meanwhile, are stocked with considerable blueline depth. If push comes to shove, they can afford to part with Byfuglien. They could try to trade Big Buff at the trade deadline, but if they’re in playoff contention by that point, I believe they’ll keep him for the postseason. 

Hudler hurting his trade value?

CALGARY SUN: Eric Francis critiques the Flames’ recent poor play. Among those he singled out was winger Jiri Hudler, who’s eligible next summer for unrestricted free agency.  Francis believes the 2014 Lady Byng Trophy winner “has been invisible and is not only hurting the club’s chances of returning to the playoffs, but now he’s costing them futures on the open market, where he will undoubtedly be dumped as a pending free agent in the new year.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hudler hasn’t exactly been invisible, as he’s got 11 points in 14 games and was reasonably consistent. However, in his last three games, he’s only managed two shots on goal and tallied only one assist. Still , it’s premature to suggest the Flames will trade Hudler in the new year, let along that he’s hurting his trade value. Much will depend upon where the club is in the standings in January and where Hudler fits into their long-term plans.

Blues seeking a forward?

TSN 1050 (VIA TODAY’S SLAPSHOT): Darren Dreger believes St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong is trying to improve his injury-riddled roster, but doesn’t want to make a deal from a position of weakness. Once the Blues get healthier, Dreger feels they could make a move. He claims there’s in the market for a top-six forward, and it could cost them a defenseman like Carl Gunnarsson.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gunnarsson’s often mentioned of late as a trade candidate, largely because he’s a UFA next summer. However, he’s not going anywhere until Kevin Shattenkirk has returned to action and is back in game shape.