With the NHL off-season nearly here, one big-name defenceman several teams had an eye on will probably not be on the market.
“It’s very unlikely Dustin Byfuglien is going to play,” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said during the Headlines segment of Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday.
The dispute which led to Byfuglien’s departure from Winnipeg began, according to Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, with the 35-year-old telling him he had lost his desire to play the day before training camp in September. By not reporting to camp, Byfuglien was suspended.
But in October, Byfuglien’s agent reached out to the GM, saying Byfuglien wanted to play again but needed surgery on his ankle, which was performed later in the month. Because Byfuglien was suspended, the Jets said the pursuit of surgery fell outside their purview. The NHLPA filed a grievance challenging his suspension in November.
The grievance was resolved with the Jets and Byfuglien reaching an agreement to terminate his contract. Byfuglien has not played NHL hockey since.
“Teams have asked. One of the teams that have asked is the Minnesota Wild, they figured because Byfuglien has a lot of ties to Minnesota he’d want to play there and they could use him. They’re probably the only team that has a chance. But I checked with Byfuglien’s agent, Ben Hankinson, and he said it’s doubtful Byfuglien will play again,” Friedman said.
The bruising defenceman hails from Roseau, Minn. and collected 363 points over 528 career games with the Jets. He also had 53 points in 81 games with the Thrashers before the franchise departed Atlanta for Manitoba.
Byfuglien was dealt to the then-Thrashers in the 2010 off-season as the Chicago Blackhawks were forced to dismantle their Stanley Cup-winning team due to cap constrictions.
He had 109 points across 260 games with Chicago, where he spent the first five years of his career after being drafted by the club in the eighth round (245th overall) of the 2003 NHL Draft.
A four-time all-star, Byfuglien has racked up a total of 525 points in 869 games over the course of his career.