Dustin Byfuglien’s uncertain future is generating questions over how the Jets will deal with his potential absence. Check out the latest speculation plus updates on Patrik Laine, Justin Faulk, and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.
QUESTIONS OVER BYFUGLIEN’S FUTURE GENERATING TRADE SPECULATION
WINNIPEG SUN: Paul Friesen reports talk of Dustin Byfuglien pondering retirement would explain his current leave of absence from the Jets. If the 34-year-old rearguard hangs up his skates, Friesen feels it would further deplete a blueline already weakened by the departures of Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers, and Ben Chiarot.
Friesen suggests the Jets could get some salary-cap relief out of this. If Byfuglien retires, the remaining two years ($7.6 million annual average value) of his contract comes off the club’s salary-cap payroll. If he drags his feet on a decision, the club could suspend him and save daily increments against the cap. Either move would free up cap dollars that could be put toward re-signing wingers Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor.
TSN’S Pierre LeBrun took to Twitter speculating over whether the Jets might look into acquiring Carolina’s Justin Faulk or Buffalo’s Rasmus Ristolainen depending on what happens with Byfuglien. He believes the Jets aren’t on Faulk’s 15-team “no-trade” list. LeBrun’s colleague Shawn Simpson wonders if that would lead to the Jets shopping Laine for a top-four defenseman.
TVA SPORTS: Jean-Charles Lajoie and Yvon Pedneault discussed the possibility of the Montreal Canadiens taking advantage of the Jets’ precarious situation on defense. Pedneault believes Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin should look into acquiring Laine. If promising Habs blueliner Cale Fleury proves he can play at the NHL level, perhaps they can use Jeff Petry as part of the return for Laine. Pedneault also noted Max Domi’s name has been circulating all summer in the rumor mill but doubts the Canadiens will part with him.
WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Mike McIntyre also weighed in on the report of Byfuglien mulling his future. While acknowledging the possibility of a trade to replace the big blueliner, McIntyre believes it would be depleting another area to fill a need. With Laine and Connor still unsigned, they don’t have a surplus of talent to work with.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bob McKenzie broke the story yesterday that Byfuglien was taking some time to consider his future. He also took pains to point out he wasn’t saying “Big Buff” would retire or not return to the Jets.
Friesen described Byfuglien as a guy “who’d love to skip training camp and jump straight into the regular season.” If so, this could all be much ado about nothing.
If Byfuglien is seriously considering retirement, Jets management will be forced to look at possible replacements. Faulk and Ristolainen have frequently appeared in recent trade speculation and could be reasonable options to take Byfuglien’s place. If the Canadiens seriously want Laine, it’ll take much more than Jeff Petry to get the deal done.
UPDATES ON LAINE AND RANTANEN
THE SCORE: Appearing on Vancouver’s Sportsnet 650, agent Mike Liut said clients Patrik Laine and Mikko Rantanen aren’t on the verge of signing new contracts with their respective teams. He said there have been no surprises in discussions with the Jets and Colorado Avalanche. He also suggested Rantanen and Toronto Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner are “probably the two closest comparables in terms of how they play the game.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Marner recently inked a six-year contract worth over $10.8 million annually with the Leafs. Liut seems to be angling for a similar deal for Rantanen with the Avalanche.
LATEST ON THE HURRICANES, FLAMES, AND CANUCKS.
Appearing on Vancouver’s Sportsnet 650 (Stick tap to James @account4hockey), Elliotte Friedman said to keep an eye out for trades by the Carolina Hurricanes, Calgary Flames, and Vancouver Canucks. The Flames and Canucks are trying to clear cap space from the bottom of their roster.
The Hurricanes are interested in Dallas Stars defenseman Julius Honka provided they can do other things (trade Justin Faulk). The Stars are shopping Honka for a pick, while the Canadiens are offering a player.
Friedman also seemed to imply a trade that would’ve sent Faulk from the Hurricanes to the Anaheim Ducks is dead, likely because the blueliner couldn’t get the contract extension he wanted from the Ducks.
THE ATHLETIC’s J.D. Burke tweeted the Canucks could be trying to find suitors for Brandon Sutter and Tim Schaller. He also wouldn’t be surprised if Jake Virtanen’s name is out there.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With the Hurricanes signing Fredrik Claesson earlier this week, they might not be looking at Honka anymore. If they are they’ll have to move Faulk or someone else to make room. Cap Friendly indicates they already have nine blueliners under contract, though two of them (Claesson and Gustav Forsling) are on two-way deals. Trevor van Riemsdyk is still recovering from off-season shoulder surgery and might not be ready for the start of the season.
The Flames have over $6.3 million in salary-cap space and must re-sign power forward Matthew Tkachuk. It could cost over $7 million to get him under contract. Winger Michael Frolik ($4.3 million salary-cap hit) has popped up several times this year in the rumor mill as a trade candidate.
Sutter has a 15-team “no-trade” list and an annual cap hit of $4.375 million through 2020-21. The Canucks could find it easier moving Schaller or Virtanen, though the latter did himself no favors by reportedly flunking his training camp physical.