Dustin Byfuglien has started a post-surgery rehabilitation program for his broken ankle in consultation with the Winnipeg Jets, signalling what could be a step toward mending the two parties’ strained relationship, according to Mike McIntyre and Jason Bell of The Winnipeg Free Press.
The news reportedly brings the veteran defenceman closer to a potential return with the Jets later this season.
McIntyre and Bell report that Byfuglien is working with medical staff at an independent clinic, but there’s been “ongoing communication” with the Jets about his treatment.
“To our understanding, he has progressed to the stage of doing rehab. However, his status with the team remains unchanged,” the club told The Free Press.
“He is doing rehab at an outside clinic. He is still under suspension.”
Byfuglien was suspended by the team for failing to report to training camp.
The NHLPA filed a grievance challenging the move last month.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that the situation between the Jets and Byfuglien could end up in arbitration. The Jets said that the 34-year-old was deemed fit to play after his 2018-19 season-ending physical, he didn’t indicate he was dealing with an ankle injury during the summer and made it clear at the beginning of the year he was ready to retire.
But it was announced at the end of October that Byfuglien underwent surgery would not be available to play until the new year, at the earliest.
The Jets and Byfuglien still do not have a date set for an arbitration case, which McIntyre and Bell note is “significant” as there was some urgency to have the disagreement settled and the Jets wanted clarity around their salary cap.
They added that the longer the situation extends without a date for a hearing, the higher the odds that it can be resolved amicably.
Byfuglien is in the second-last season of a five-year, $38-million contract with the Jets. He is scheduled to earn $8 million this season and $6 million next, but due to his suspension by the team, he hasn’t collected any of his salary.