The Winnipeg Jets have managed quite well without blue liner Dustin Byfuglien in their lineup: better than anyone had expected, to be honest.
As you remember, it was all started in training camp, when the Jets said Byfuglien was deemed fit to play after his 2018-19 season-ending physical and didn’t indicate he was dealing with an ankle injury during the summer. The team believes he had made it clear at the beginning of the year he was ready to retire after 14 seasons in the NHL as he was suspended from the club without pay. This was followed by the revelation that, unbeknownst to the Jets, that Byfuglien had undergone surgery for his troublesome ankle. That grievance was eventually filed, with Byfuglien looking to recoup the $8 million he is owed this season, but no hearing has been held on the matter at this point, as far as we know.
Now it is believed that Byfuglien could be inching closer to a return as TSN’s Darren Dreger reports that he could be willing to test his ankle on the ice.
He has yet to hit the ice “but a potential return clearly hinges on the next phase and some think he’s at that point.”
Even the Jets are getting return for a return for Buff it seems as GM Kevin Cheveldayoff mentioned on Tuesday it could affect his trade deadline plans.
“First and foremost, what will the availability be for me from a (NHL salary) cap perspective?” Cheveldayoff said. “And that will be greatly influenced by the Byfuglien situation and what [happens].”
Byfuglien is in the second-last season of a five-year, $38-million contract with the Jets. He is set 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 as of 2019-20.
Cheveldayoff added, however, that Byfuglien isn’t the only player whose potential return would impact the team’s deadline plans and Bryan Little could soon return from injury.
“He’s an important piece, a centre and a top forward. We’re keeping a close monitor there. If you have more knowledge on those things, it’ll help us make decisions when we get to or closer to the deadline.”
Little has been sidelined since Dec. 5 when he was hit in the head with a puck. The veteran forward has two goals and five points in seven games this season and carries a $5.29 million cap hit through 2023-2024.