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Flying Without a Parachute

The Dustin Byfuglien contract is an interesting one to analyze. I enjoy watching ‘Big Buff’ play the game and I think he paved ways for guys like Brent Burns to emerge. I don’t know if he is worth the money that they gave him and I don’t know if Winnipeg is the right spot for him.

My claim to fame and a disclaimer is that I tried out with him my senior year when he played for Chicago Mission. It was the Mission’s first season and I was one of the last players cut from the roster. When I walked into the room, Dustin Byfuglien was the obvious leader and insisted I sit next to him because we both had some color in our skin. I will never forget that the Ludicrous song, “What’s Your Fantasy” was booming from the stereo. Being 5’7 and 155 pounds, I quickly obliged understanding the importance of having a person of his magnitude on your team.

I saw him one other time that season as both of our teams were competing in the Steel City tournament in Sault Ste. Marie, ON. I remember I met up with him in the lobby and we exchanged some words. I figured that was the last time I would ever hear of him. Little to my knowledge there would be plenty of people in the hockey world that also understood the importance of having a person of his magnitude on their team.

Byfuglien has been criticized all throughout his career. A lot of times it was because of his weight, other times because of his skill, sometimes for the way he plays the game. One thing is for certain though, he plays the game in a unique way. He has a balance of grace, skill and grit on a frame that would be seen in the NFL, not NHL. To top it off, he can move when he is on the ice and is more creative than most.

The Winnipeg Jets must have seen this as well since they signed the 30 year old to a 5 year, $38M contract. The contract puts him on par with cap hits similar to Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. When you think of Byfuglien do you think he is in the same realm as those guys? Do you think he deserves top money for an NHL defenseman? More importantly do you think that the Winnipeg Jets were right with this move?

Based on the Jets current defenseman, they only have two guys that are not I their 30’s; Myers and Trouba. The latter is a free agent at the remainder of this year and being the youngest player on the back-end in the organization, it may have been better to invest in Trouba.

I don’t think the Jets are a contender and this is where they faltered. I strongly believe Byfuglien could have been a loaner player on a Cup contender or traded to a team where they could have got some great value for him. Instead the Jets now have a significant amount of money tied up in Enstrom, Byfuglien, Myers and Stuart. With the exception of Byfuglien and maybe the upside for Myers, they have dug themselves a hole.

I am a firm believer that they are only a year or two out from being in the playoff picture. They should have traded Byfuglien and they should part ways with Ladd. I understand these guys are the two staple of the organization, but the talented Wheeler and Little can provide veteran leadership for guys like Schiefle and Ehlers.

In the end, I think Byfuglien got the money he deserves. 5 years may be a stretch, but I can live with it. What I cannot live with is the Jets organization putting their money into keep an aging team who cant make the playoffs. I think this contract will leave people scratching their heads a few years from now when Byfuglien is in the final year of his contract and they trade some of their better talent to ‘rebuild’ for the future. Hey Winnipeg, the time to rebuild is NOW.

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