Beyond Headlines: Jets not rushing Byfuglien into decision on future

The Hockey Night in Canada panel talk about all the news and rumors around the league including the status of Dustin Byfuglien.

‘Beyond Headlines’ is a deeper dive into some of the stories — and even some that weren’t — discussed each week on Hockey Night in Canada’s ‘Headlines’ segment.

We are not expecting a quick resolution to the uncertain Dustin Byfuglien situation.

That’s important to keep in mind as the focus on his status heightens with each day the Winnipeg Jets go without knowing whether he’ll continue his NHL career or not.

Predicting what Byfuglien will do is a fool’s errand, as my colleague Elliotte Friedman discussed on "Headlines." The decision is entirely his and there’s no way to know exactly what is running through his mind at any given moment.

Or even if seeing the Jets start playing meaningful games might compel Byfuglien to return to the ice.

This is a unique situation.

The 34-year-old defenceman is officially considered "suspended without pay" while he ponders his future and is forfeiting more than $43,000 in salary for every day he’s off the roster.

But there’s much more to life than money and Byfuglien has been well-compensated while playing more than 900 NHL games between the regular season and playoffs. He’s also dealt with a fair share of ailments over the years, including a bothersome ankle issue that cost him 30 games last season.

The Jets have been supportive and patient while Big Buff decides what to do. They’d obviously love to have him back, but are willing to let him work through his own process. And technically he can wait until the Feb. 24 trade deadline before being activated and still remain eligible for the playoffs.

This is how Winnipeg’s depleted blue line has looked without Byfuglien and the injured Sami Niku:




They still have a talented group of forwards and managed a thrilling four-goal comeback victory over the New Jersey Devils on Friday night.

It was the kind of win that could build some confidence and identity in a team. Consider this: There was only one four-goal comeback in the NHL all of last season, according to Sportsnet Stats.

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We live in dangerous times.

There is not much to be gained from trying to explore every rumour floating around social media, but the one that purported to connect New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft to the Ottawa Senators on Saturday afternoon was simply too juicy to ignore.

This tweet containing a snapchat post from "Kathryn Kraft" generated immediate buzz:

The NHL’s reaction was one of complete surprise. Think something along the lines of: This has never even been whispered about in our offices, let alone explored, considered or pursued.

That was the information we used to debunk the Kraft connection on "Headlines."

Then a response for comment from the New England Patriots public relations department made Saturday was returned on Sunday morning: Robert Kraft doesn’t even have a granddaughter named Kathryn, according to a spokesperson with the NFL team.

Cringe emoji.


First, the encouraging news: The NHL and NHL Players’ Association have continued regular CBA bargaining talks with a series of conference calls since the union declined its option to bring an early termination to the current agreement on Sept. 16.

Some wondered if a locked-in September 2022 expiry date might cool talks following a busy summer. Not so.

Still, it’s not yet clear where this is headed.

There are some shared business reasons why the sides would love to hammer out an early extension in the coming months — giving Seattle a clean runway to enter the league, determining how the windfall from a new U.S. national TV deal will impact the salary cap/player escrow payments and establishing a clear international calendar of events, among them.

Olympic participation remains a massive roadblock. That was reinforced by this quote from deputy commissioner Bill Daly to on Friday: "I’ll say, because I think I need to say, from the NHL owners’ perspective, Olympic participation is not seen as something that’s either essential or even useful to our business. It’s highly disruptive to our season, puts our players in jeopardy of injury with no financial benefit to the NHL or the clubs."

The players’ interest in best-on-best competition remains strong. However, they are only believed to want another World Cup if it is part of a larger plan that includes an Olympic tournament.

That’s going to be tricky. It would require the NHL not only to change its stance, but also conduct separate negotiations with the IOC on travel, insurance and hospitality payments.

There’s not much time to sort through these issues.

The 2022 Beijing Games are closer than they may appear.

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The Columbus Blue Jackets are carrying around a chip on their shoulders bigger than the combined size of Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin’s new contracts.

It was certainly no coincidence that they splashed the word "LOYALTY" across the Nationwide Arena scoreboard before Friday’s home opener while backing their hype video with Kendrick Lamar’s song "DNA."

"I got, I got, I got, I got

Loyalty, got royalty…"

Not only did Bobrovsky and Panarin depart in free agency, they saw trade deadline acquisition Matt Duchene and former president John Davidson jump ship as well.

That’s left behind some question marks in Columbus, particularly with the unproven goaltending duo of Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins, who’ve been burned for 11 goals against in two games.

But it would be unwise to overlook the Jackets entirely.

The "us against the world" mentality would seem to play right into coach John Tortorella’s hands. This a group with talented players and plenty of motivation.


Officially, the New York Rangers started selling Panarin on the idea of calling Madison Square Garden home in the days leading up to free agency.

Unofficially, Mika Zibanejad planted the bug a little sooner than that.

"I was talking to him on the ice our last home game against Columbus last year," Zibanejad told Sportsnet. "I told him ‘You know you’re always welcome next year.’ I’m like ‘I’ll see next year.’

"I was just trying to get to him a little bit and he was just laughing."

Even if the playful chiding was long forgotten by the time Panarin signed an $81.5-million, seven-year deal with the Rangers, it looks prescient now. Zibanejad is skating between Panarin and Pavel Buchnevich on New York’s top line and has amassed a league-best eight points through two games.

And Zibanejad, coming off a career-best season, is a big fan of his new left-winger.

"He’s so slippery. He doesn’t have a pattern to him," said Zibanejad. "You think he’s going to do something and he wants you to think that and then he does something completely different that you haven’t really counted on.

"He’s so dangerous with the puck. I want to check his heart rate when he has the puck and he’s in a stressful situation because it feels like it doesn’t go up at all."

The Swede didn’t get any advanced heads-up on July 1 that Panarin chose the Rangers from a group of suitors that included the Islanders, Blue Jackets and Panthers.

"I was just updating my phone the whole time and then saw that we signed him. I’m like ‘Thank God, we got him,"’ said Zibanejad. "Not only because he’s a great player and we want him on our team, the teams that were rumoured [to be chasing him] we play against them four times a year and I don’t want that.

"I’ve had enough of playing against him."


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