The Winnipeg Jets have re-signed defenseman Dustin Byfuglien to a five-year, $38-million contract extension, beginning in 2016-17. Byfuglien, 30, was eligible for unrestricted free agency in July.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Byfuglien’s new deal is worth an annual average salary of $7.6 million, giving him the third-highest salary-cap hit among NHL defensemen. It’s a steep price to pay to keep Byfuglien in the fold. The 6’5″, 260-pounder is an undeniable physical presence with a lethal scoring touch. He’s on pace to reach 50 points for the fourth time in six seasons.
While considered among the Jets’ core players, Byfuglien hasn’t been able to lift them into perennial playoff contention. Still, they evidently believe their chances for improvement over the next five seasons are better with him in the lineup. Provided he can avoid a significant decline in his performance over the course of this deal, and if he can help lead the Jets toward playoff contention, it could be a worthwhile deal.
It’ll be interesting to see what effect this signing has upon the contract talks of Jets left wing, captain and pending UFA Andrew Ladd. Having committed big bucks for Byfuglien, will they do the same with Ladd, or decide to shop him before the trade deadline? Keep an eye on his status between now and the Feb. 29 trade deadline.
Byfuglien’s new deal could affect the long-term futures ofTyler Myers and Jacob Trouba with the usually cost-conscious Jets. Myers is under contract through 2018-19 at an annual cap hit of $5.5 million with a modified no-trade clause kicking in next season. Trouba’s coming off an entry-level contract and is reportedly seeking over $7 million annually on an eight-year deal. If the latter doesn’t budge off his asking price, the Jets could consider trading him. They could try moving Tobias Enstrom ($5.25 million through 2017-18), but he’s got a full no-movement clause.