Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – November 3, 2019
The latest on Dustin Byfuglien and Jesse Puljujarvi plus some recent Penguins speculation in today’s NHL rumor roundup.
NO END IN SIGHT FOR BYFUGLIEN SAGA
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports a resolution in the ongoing saga between the Winnipeg Jets and Dustin Byfuglien doesn’t seem likely. The defenseman has been absent from the club pondering his future. He recently underwent ankle surgery and could be sidelined until sometime in the new year. Friedman claims the situation has become emotional, heated, and heading to arbitration.
Friedman said the Jets were told not to discuss the situation, which explains general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff’s guarded comments. During Byfuglien’s exit physical at the end of last season, the team felt he was ready to play. He didn’t tell them he had issues with his ankle during the summer and informed them of his intention to retire.
Byfuglien’s side of the story is he was injured going into the playoffs, played hurt, took the summer off to heal, returned to Winnipeg intending to play but his ankle acted up again while skating. Friedman said a broken bone was also discovered in Byfuglien’s foot during the surgery. There’s a dispute over when the injury happened and when everyone knew about it.
Chris Johnston said there are bad feelings and money involved. As Byfuglien is still under contract, part of an arbiter’s role could be trying to determine when the defenseman starts getting paid again. The Jets suspended him during his leave of absence for salary-cap purposes. While Byfuglien is uncertain over the status of his career, he’s indicated a willingness to return to action.
If Byfuglien does return, Friedman said it remains to be seen if he’ll play for the Jets or if they’ll want him back.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If this requires arbitration to settle it could spell the end of Byfuglien’s tenure in Winnipeg. If he’s still willing to play, however, it could prove difficult for the Jets to trade him.
Playoff contenders would certainly have interest in Byfuglien’s services. However, his recent surgery, age (34), salary-cap hit ($7.6 million annually through 2020-21) and 14-team no-trade list will affect efforts to move him.
Meanwhile, this situation hampers the Jets’ ability to address their weakened blueline. Byfuglien’s suspension currently gives them over $6.6 million in salary-cap space. If he returns, however, they must shed salary to become cap compliant.
They could be forced to make a dollar-for-dollar swap. The Hockey News’ Jared Clinton recently observed there are veteran options like Chicago’s Brent Seabrook, Pittsburgh’s Jack Johnson or the New York Rangers’ Marc Staal. However, they have their contract baggage of their own and won’t improve the Jets’ defense corps.
INTEREST GROWING IN PULJUJARVI
SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reports Jesse Puljujarvi’s strong play in Finland has attracted some suitors in the NHL trade market. The 21-year-old restricted free agent is playing overseas while awaiting a trade by the Edmonton Oilers. General manager Ken Holland is heading to Finland to watch Puljujarvi play in an upcoming international tournament.
Johnston doesn’t believe the organization has made a decision if they’ll try to trade Puljujarvi right away, wait until the Dec. 1 deadline to re-sign him approaches, or try and keep him. Holland spoke extensively with teams since the summer. Johnston believes the New York Rangers have shown persistent interest in Puljujarvi.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers are a rebuilding club. They’re using defenseman Brendan Smith as a fourth-line right wing. Depending on the asking price, Puljujarvi could be a fit with the Blueshirts.
RECENT PENGUINS SPECULATION
THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Josh Yohe was asked about the possibility of the Pittsburgh Penguins trading Jack Johnson since Erik Gudbranson was shipped to Anaheim. He doesn’t see Johnson getting moved but didn’t rule it out. He points out they had a deal to trade the veteran defenseman on the table in late September. However, they aren’t displeased with his performance.
Asked about Nick Bjugstad, Yohe thinks he could be the next forward to go. He hasn’t been impressed with Bjugstad’s performance since joining the Penguins last season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Why didn’t Penguins GM Jim Rutherford move Johnson if they had a deal on the table? Perhaps the return wasn’t that good, or maybe they had to include a first-round pick, something Rutherford doesn’t want to do. Bjugstad’s unimpressive play could also hurt any attempt to trade him during the season.