February 08 2016 03:51PM
Photo credit: Aaron Doster/USA TODAY Sports
After so many months of speculation, the Jets have finally locked up one of their pending UFAs. Dustin Byfuglien, the Jets' all-star defenceman, will remain in Winnipeg for five more seasons, according to a team release:
The Winnipeg Jets today announced they have signed defenceman Dustin Byfuglien to a five-year contract extension with an average annual value of $7.6 million.
There is bound to be some sticker shock with this deal: Byfuglien will have the third-highest cap hit of any NHL defencemen next season. But for a 30-year old human wrecking ball, keeping the deal to just five years is key. As a free agent this summer, Byfuglien would almost certainly have been offered seven years; the Jets gave a little on the price tag in exchange for a term they were comfortable with.
Of course, the most important part about this deal is that the Jets have locked up one of the league's very best defencemen. No other NHLer plays quite like Big Buff. His game is haphazard, physical to the point of recklessness, wildly entertaining, skilled, and most of all, effective.
At five on five, Byfuglien scores more goals-per-hour than any other NHL defenceman (last two seasons) and drives possession at a top-pairing level. He's also a weapon on the powerplay and a surprisingly effective penalty killer.
Byfuglien's occasional propensity for turnovers has made him a surprisingly divisive player among the Jets' fanbase, but he's clearly a top-tier defenceman.
This deal will have ramifications beyond the significant financial commitment; it will impact negotiations with the Jets' captain, Andrew Ladd, and may allow for one of the Jets' other right-hand defenceman to be used as a trade piece.
I wouldn't be surprised to see Jacob Trouba moved either. Jets like Byfuglien and Myers as their top two RD.— James Mirtle (@mirtle) February 8, 2016
In signing Byfuglien, the Jets have made a significant commitment to a long-time franchise star. In return, they have a core piece of their blue line locked up for five seasons. After all the talk of the tight budget from ownership, of the Jets having the lowest team cap hit in the league, credit should be given where it's due: the coffers were opened wide to retain a player who couldn't be replaced elsewhere
Only time will tell how Byfuglien's game holds up with age; only time will tell what decisions the Jets make following this one. But if you want to know what his teammates think of Byfuglien's new deal?
The boys congratulate Byfuglien... pic.twitter.com/basrV0oUrP— Shane Hnidy (@ShaneHnidy) February 8, 2016
They seem to be pretty happy.