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Frank Seravalli

TSN Senior Hockey Reporter

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Another day, another twist in the Dustin Byfuglien saga.

Turns out, the Winnipeg Jets have waited to pull the trigger on a mutual contract termination with Dustin Byfuglien because multiple sources say the Jets are attempting to exhaust all trade options for the hulking defenceman.

After being thrust into an uncomfortable position by Byfuglien at the start of the season, Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is now seeking to salvage a return.

Sources say suitors have been in regular contact with Cheveldayoff over the last weeks about Byfuglien’s future, but talks have only intensified in recent days leading up to the NHL’s Feb. 24 trade deadline.

There is no guarantee that Byfuglien will be dealt – in part because of the fact that sources say he remains a long shot to return to the ice this season – but Big Buff’s mere potential impact warrants his debut at No. 10 on the latest TSN Trade Bait board.

Why would a team be interested in Byfuglien now?

If a team believes they could successfully lure him back to the rink, Byfuglien’s once massive $7.6 million salary cap hit has dwindled down to just a prorated $1.84 million now with only 45 days left in the regular season.

It is a potential low-risk, high-reward play. Few could impact a game like ‘Big Buff’ when he’s engaged, as evidenced by his bone-crunching hits, powerful shot, and knack for the moment. He was the Jets’ leading scorer in last year’s first-round series with St. Louis, collecting eight points in six playoff games – his last NHL action to date.

At the worst case, if Byfuglien refuses to report, then he will remain suspended without pay – at no salary cap consequence to the acquiring team. That team could then move to terminate Byfuglien’s contract, like the Jets can now, or opt to hold his rights into the summer to see if he has interest in resuming his career next season.

Those close to Byfuglien wonder whether he might be able to be re-energized by the idea of reuniting with old coach Joel Quenneville and GM Dale Tallon in Florida. Or whether the Minnesota Wild might intrigue the proud Roseau, Minn., native. Even if still suspended, Byfuglien would need to be on the acquiring team’s reserve list by Feb. 24 at 3 o’clock to be eligible for postseason play.

It’s believe that Byfuglien has not skated since September. He has been suspended without pay by the Jets for failure to report since he arrived at training camp and asked to take time off to contemplate retirement.

After Byfuglien revealed a lingering ankle injury and underwent surgery in late October, the NHLPA filed a grievance in conjunction with Byfuglien in an attempt to have a neutral arbitrator rule on a legitimate hockey injury as a course to recoup this season’s lost wages.

But once Byfuglien declined to continue to the on-ice portion of his rehab progress in January, the NHLPA’s ability to defend the grievance became moot.

With that grievance in the rearview mirror, Cheveldayoff and the Jets have been given the green light – with the support of the NHL – to use the $7.6 million that they’ve set aside all season for Byfuglien at the deadline as Winnipeg sees fit.

That’s why there has been no rush to terminate Byfuglien’s contract. It’s a chip Cheveldayoff has kept in his pocket. The Jets can terminate Byfuglien after the trade deadline if Cheveldayoff ultimately cannot work out a deal – and at the very least, that will ensure Byfuglien cannot be signed to a free agent contract by a playoff rival.

Here is TSN Hockey’s latest Trade Bait board, which always seeks to blend a player’s prominence with his likelihood of a deal:

 

Trade Bait - Feb. 19

 
Trend Player Pos Age GP G PTS Cap Hit Years
  1. Chris Kreider, NYR LW 28 57 23 42 $4.63M UFA
  2. Sami Vatanen, NJD RD 28 47 5 23 $4.9M UFA
  3. Jean-Gabriel Pageau, OTT C 27 58 24 40 $3.1M UFA
Embedded Image 4. Vladislav Namestnikov, OTT LW 27 54 13 25 $4M UFA
  5. Carolina's 1st Round Pick             2020
  6. Ilya Kovalchuk, MTL LW 36 37 9 21 $700K UFA
  7. Andreas Athanasiou, DET LW 25 45 10 24 $3M RFA
  8. Erik Gustafsson, CHI LD 27 58 6 26 $1.2M UFA
  9. Wayne Simmonds, NJD RW 31 59 7 23 $5M UFA
Embedded Image 10. Dustin Byfuglien, WPG RD 34 - - - $7.6M 1
  11. Mike Hoffman, FLA RW 30 59 22 47 $5.19M UFA
  12. Patrick Marleau, SJS LW 40 55 10 20 $700K UFA
  13. Joe Thornton, SJS C 40 59 2 25 $2M UFA
  14. Derek Grant, ANA C 29 47 14 20 $700K UFA
  15. Barclay Goodrow, SJS C 26 59 8 24 $925K 1
  16. Robin Lehner, CHI G 28 32 2.91 0.921 $5M UFA
  17. Conor Sheary, BUF LW 27 52 9 19 $3M UFA
  18. Vincent Trocheck, FLA C 26 52 9 33 $4.75M 2
  19. Jonas Brodin, MIN LD 26 58 2 24 $4.17M 1
Embedded Image 20. Kyle Palmieri, NJD RW 29 54 22 41 $4.65M 1
  21. Detroit's Cap Space             2020
  22. Ron Hainsey, OTT LD 38 53 1 11 $3.5M UFA
  23. Alex Kerfoot, TOR C 25 56 8 25 $3.5M 3
  24. Kasperi Kapanen, TOR RW 23 60 11 32 $3.2M 2
  25. Matt Dumba, MIN RD 25 58 4 20 $6M 3
  26. Josh Anderson, CBJ RW 25 26 1 4 $1.85M RFA
  27. Pavel Buchnevich, NYR RW 24 58 13 35 $3.25M 1
  28. Anthony DeAngelo, NYR RD 24 56 13 43 $925K RFA
  29. Shayne Gostisbehere, PHI LD 26 41 5 12 $4.5M 3
  30. Ondrej Kase, ANA RW 24 49 7 23 $2.6M 1
  31. Rasmus Ristolainen, BUF RD 25 60 5 29 $5.4M 2
  32. Mike Green, DET RD 34 46 2 9 $5.38M UFA
Embedded Image 33. Ben Hutton, LAK LD 26 56 3 10 $1.5M UFA
  34. Chris Tierney, OTT C 25 60 10 30 $2.94M RFA
  35. Ryan Donato, MIN LW 23 52 11 18 $1.9M 1
  36. Craig Smith, NSH RW 30 58 17 28 $4.5M UFA
  37. Valtteri Filppula, DET C 35 61 5 20 $3M 1
Embedded Image 38. Brady Skjei, NYR LD 25 57 7 22 $5.25M 4
  39. Mikael Granlund, NSH LW 27 53 14 25 $5.75M UFA
  40. Sam Bennett, CGY LW 23 42 7 11 $2.55M 1
  41. Michael Del Zotto, ANA LD 29 37 2 11 $750K UFA
  42. Nate Thompson, MTL C 35 61 4 14 $1M UFA
  43. Trevor Lewis, LAK RW 33 46 3 9 $2M UFA
  44. Devin Shore, ANA LW 25 36 3 9 $2.3M UFA
  45. Rocco Grimaldi, NSH RW 27 56 10 29 $1M UFA
  46. Evgeni Dadonov, FLA RW 30 59 24 43 $4M UFA
  47. Josh Manson, ANA RD 28 40 1 6 $4.1M 2
  48. Kyle Turris, NSH C 30 52 9 28 $6M 4
  49. Jeff Petry, MTL RD 32 62 9 36 $5.5M 1
  50. Jesse Puljujarvi, EDM* RW 21 46 18 44 - RFA
 

*Stats from SM-Liiga

 

TRADED

4. Alec Martinez (Lak to Vgk)

4. Brenden Dillon (Sjs to Wsh)

6. Tyler Toffoli (LA to Van)

10. Dylan DeMelo (Ott to Wpg)

11. Jason Zucker (Min to Pit)

29. Kyle Clifford (LA to Tor)

36. Alex Galchenyuk (Pit to Min)

37. Marco Scandella (Mtl to Stl)

 

Contact Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @frank_seravalli​