Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien scored Tuesday night in his team’s 5-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes.
It’s the type of goal many Jets fans would like to see more of in the coming years, but management needs to re-sign the veteran blueliner for that to happen.
According to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, the Jets will try to re-sign Byfuglien — who’s able to become an unrestricted free agent July 1 — before the trade deadline.
“It?s believed they are going to make a serious run at signing Dustin Byfuglien, and there are additional reports talks broke off with captain Andrew Ladd,” Friedman wrote in his weekly 30 Thoughts column. “The difficulty in reporting this stuff is things can change. If it doesn?t work with the former, the Jets may circle back to the latter.
“There?s time. But as I write this Tuesday morning, the best feeling I get is there?s a better chance of Ladd going than Byfuglien. I?ve written before Winnipeg?s hesitated going beyond three years with Byfuglien. Are we talking five? Six? Are they willing to go that far? With Ladd, it sounds like there?s a dollar figure the Jets won?t cross. My guess is it?s $6M, but that?s a guess.”
It should be noted Ladd also is a UFA this summer. He’s the team captain and a top-six forward who brings an impressive playoff pedigree to a young team. That said, he’s 30 years old and at the tail end of his prime. Ladd is worth $6 million right now, but he most likely would not be in the second half of his contract, assuming it’s a deal six years or longer.
Winnipeg also has other important players to re-sign in the near future. That list is highlighted by defenseman Jacob Trouba and forwards Mark Scheifele and Nik Ehlers. These players are more important to the franchise’s future than Ladd.
Byfuglien is a rare player. He has size, physicality, offensive skill and a championship pedigree. He’s capable of playing right wing or a top-pairing role, giving his coach valuable lineup versatility.
The concern with Byfuglien is his heavy style of hockey tends to wear down players, and there’s a fear his production will drop off, possibly significantly, when he reaches his mid-30s. Byfuglien already is 30 and is listed at 265 pounds. Any contract extension of more than five years would be too much of a risk for the Jets.
Prioritizing Byfuglien over Ladd is the right choice for Winnipeg, though. The Jets have a surplus of quality forward prospects. The same cannot be said on the blue line.
Thumbnail photo via Bruce Fedyck/USA TODAY Sports Images