There are a number of layers to sift through when it comes to the current situation between the Winnipeg Jets and defenceman Dustin Byfuglien.
Wednesday’s news that Byfuglien underwent ankle surgery last week adds a few more layers to what Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff called a “complicated issue.”
“Going back to the start of training camp, that’s when we met with Dustin and those are all pretty well-documented stuff and obviously over the course of time here, he has had an ankle surgery here now and we’re dealing with that,” Cheveldayoff told reporters during a media availability on Thursday afternoon. “So with respect to really anything else that I can comment on, that’s pretty much where it’s at at this point in time. We’re in constant conversations with his agents and that’s where we’re at.”
Cheveldayoff wasn’t able to elaborate on many details of what is clearly a fluid situation.
News of Byfuglien’s surgery, which has him sidelined until the new year, brings a few new questions to the surface with many wondering why the player didn’t simply go on long-term injured reserve — a move that would have allowed him to continue getting paid — rather than being suspended by the team.
“It’s a complicated issue,” Cheveldayoff said. “I’m here to speak but there’s really not much that I can enlighten beyond what’s been talked about as it stands right now.”
Reports surfaced in mid-September that the veteran rearguard was taking a personal leave from the team to contemplate his hockey future and has been considering retirement. Shortly after, the Jets suspended him for not reporting to training camp — a move head coach Paul Maurice called “absolutely procedural” at the time and said “Dustin was aware of it.”
Suspending Byfuglien was seen as a temporary workaround for the team as it continues to navigate the salary cap, as it allowed the Jets to keep a little cap flexibility through the uncertainty.
Questions also arose in regards to the Jets’ involvement, if any, with Byfuglien’s decision to undergo last week’s ankle surgery.
Global Winnipeg reporter Russ Hobson tweeted the following statement from the team Wednesday night:
Cheveldayoff echoed that during Thursday’s availability.
“From our situation, nothing’s really changed with the news with respect to him having surgery. We were aware he was contemplating it,” he said. “Again, when we said we weren’t directly involved, we weren’t directly involved but obviously we knew that he was contemplating that. As far as what it means for the future, again, it’s something that we’ll just have to wait and see.”
When asked about a possible move to LTIR, Cheveldayoff said Byfuglien’s status hasn’t changed.
“There’s not much more that I can say,” he said. “The status has been the same since the beginning of training camp.”
Byfuglien’s contract has two years remaining, with an average annual value of $7.6 million. When asked about managing the situation as far as the cap is concerned, the GM had this to say:
“There’s cap challenges every day in the National Hockey League. Nothing has really changed with respect to how we have to operate on a daily basis. It’s something that we’ve been challenged with and are managing daily.”