The behemoth blueliner inked a five-year extension worth a cool $38 million Monday, giving Jets fans some reassurance that the core of their roster will remain intact heading into next season – question marks surrounding captain Andrew Ladd notwithstanding.
It also says a lot about the Jets and where Byfuglien feels he can take them. The 30-year-old could have tested the open market and earned a similar contract in a city with a warmer climate and lower taxes, but he chose to brave the cold and stick with the Jets.
The Jets know what they have in the four-time all-star and they know how to use him. Byfuglien possesses a rare combination of size and skill. At 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds, there are few players in the NHL that can match up with him physically.
In the past three seasons, Byfuglien ranks second in goals and sixth in total points among defencemen, but expectations will rise once his $7.6-million salary cap hit comes into effect next season.
With that in mind, here’s a look at how Byfuglien’s contracts compares to his defence peers:
Brent Burns (Five years, $28.8 million, $5.76-million cap hit)
Stylistically, Burns is the most similar player to Byfuglien in the entire league. Both are big bodies with heavy right-handed shots, tremendous offensive skill and both have spent time playing as a top-six winger on their respective teams.
Burns is the only defenceman with more goals than Byfuglien in the past three seasons and he has more goals than any blue-liner in the past four years (he did spend the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign as a forward). Burns is set to become a UFA after next season and in all likelihood, he’ll garner a deal similar to the one Byfuglien just got, whether it’s with the Sharks or another team.
Mark Giordano (Six years, $40.5-million, $6.75-million cap hit)
The Flames captain’s stock has risen tremendously over the past three years and it netted him his own big deal this past August. Despite the fact that Giordano is two years older than Byfuglien, the Jets defenceman has more NHL experience. Byfuglien is typically more effective in the offensive zone, but Giordano has evolved into a more well-rounded defender.
Dion Phaneuf (Seven years, $49 million, $7-million cap hit)
It’s odd seeing the Sens logo beside Phaneuf’s name, no? The former Maple Leafs captain is the same age as Byfuglien, but he recently hit the 800-game mark in his career. Phaneuf, who should settle in nicely in a top-four role in Ottawa, has slowed down both statistically and in skating ability in recent years, yet he remains effective on the back end.
Phaneuf and Byfuglien are both set to become UFAs in 2022, so it will be interesting to compare these two over the course of the next five seasons.
Ryan Suter (13 years, $98 million, $7.538-million cap hit)
Byfuglien’s contract isn’t even half the length or value of the massive deal Suter signed as a free agent in 2012, but their cap hits are nearly identical. Suter might not put up the point totals Byfuglien can, although his 32 points in 52 games has him on pace to set a career high in point this year. He’s also as responsible as it gets in the defensive zone. Suter is generally considered a notch above the Jets’ big man.
Zdeno Chara (Seven years, $45.5 million, $6.916-million cap hit
Chara and his 6-foot-9, 250-pound frame can relate to the way Byfuglien manhandles fools on the ice. The Bruins captain will be 41 at the end of his deal, but he did his best on-ice work in his early-to-mid-30s, which is what Jets fans hope Byfuglien can do as well.
Brent Seabrook (Eight years, $55 million, $6.875-million cap hit
These two won a Stanley Cup together with the Blackhawks in 2010. Both can absolutely wire the puck and enjoy laying the body on opposing players. Seabrook has always been somewhat overshadowed by Duncan Keith in Chicago, but Byfuglien will now be front and centre in Winnipeg.
Other cap comparables:
Shea Weber, 14 years, $7.857-million cap hit
Kris Letang, eight years, $7.25-million cap hit
Brian Campbell, eight years, $7.143-million cap hit
Drew Doughty, eight years, $7-million cap hit
Alex Pietrangelo, seven years, $6.5-million cap hit
Erik Karlsson, seven years, $6.5-million cap hit
Johnny Boychuk, seven years, $6-million cap hit
Erik Johnson, seven years, $6-million cap hit