The Dustin Byfuglien saga has just taken another turn and this one, at least from an optics perspective, looks a little ugly. That being said though that is purely an optics issue as this does not appear to be a decision that has been motivated by any kind of malice.
First, according to a breaking news report from TSN National Hockey League insider Bob McKenzie the Winnipeg Jets have now moved to suspend Dustin Byfuglien as a result of his absence from the team. Byfuglien of course made major headlines earlier this week when it was revealed that he had been granted a "leave of absence" from the Winnipeg Jets organization, this coming right in the heart of training camp. Although it has never been explicitly stated it is believed that the time away is being used by Byfuglien to ponder his NHL future, in other words to ponder a potential retirement from the National Hockey League.
The news came as a major shock to fans in Winnipeg this week but it appears as though a nagging ankle injury, one that reportedly has not healed as well as expected, has really taken a toll on the big man. When you consider that as well as the fact that a very physical style of play is what has made Byfuglien the player that he is, it is easy to see why a man who is already set for life has questions about his future both in the short and long term.
Now it may sound odd to you that a player has been suspended after being granted a leave of absence, but this appears to be a move brought on by the realities of the NHL's current collective bargaining agreement, and more specifically the salary cap. The Jets do not know whether or not Byfuglien will be coming back this season and by suspending him now they would shave his current cap hit off their books should he fail to report when the season begins. This of course would open a tremendous amount of cap space for the Winnipeg Jets, a move that could in fact help the team deal with its current restricted free agent situation given that both Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor remain unsigned, but the Jets can't be certain what Byfuglien will do or when he will do it.
McKenzie believes at the end of the day that the organization would prefer to have Byfuglien back, however he believes that they felt this move had to be made in order to maintain the roster flexibility they will need should the big man choose to retire.