The Dustin Byfuglien era in Winnipeg is over, the result of a mutual contract termination with the Jets that sees the great defenseman with even greater personality move away from US $ 14 million to face an uncertain future in hockey.
“Obviously, it was never our desired outcome or ending with Dustin. If the Jets had written the perfect script, it would have ended with Dustin holding a big, big silver trophy above his head in the center of the ice and displaying that big, big smile, “said the general manager on Friday. Kevin Cheveldayoff during a conference call.
“But we are grateful for the time we spent with Dustin here. He was a force of nature on and off the ice. He has an extremely contagious personality that you cannot help but like the person. He has played an important role in our team for a long time. “
Byfuglien, 35, is now officially a free agent who could sign with any team for the start of next season. But that remains long since the Stanley Cup champion (with Chicago) has made it clear several times that he plans to retire after 935 regular season and playoff games, including 555 with the Jets.
“There is only one person and one person who can answer if he plays again, and that is Dustin,” said Cheveldayoff.
Byfuglien has not yet spoken publicly, but his wife, Emily, thanked the Jets organization and the city on Friday in a long article on social media.
See this post on Instagram
After 8 years playing for Winnipeg, this chapter of our life is coming to an end. I have nothing but gratitude to the Jets for these 8 incredible years in Winnipeg. What a great experience it was. To have our first baby here, to raise 3 children now in this popular community. We grew up together and as a family here, and I wouldn’t change that for the world. The support of the Winnipeggers has been overwhelming. I appreciate all those who contacted me with support and kindness. No one can know for sure what their future can bring. I never thought for a second that our time here would be shortened under these circumstances. The last 8 months have been the hardest of my life. I had a hard time accepting the situation. I struggled as a wife and as a mother under stress. I didn’t want all of this to be true. This is the only life I have known in a long time, and I am beyond the devastation of having to leave here. I love this city and its people. I had the best 8 years of Dustin’s NHL career here in Winnipeg. I’m going to miss every second of Dustin playing here. I will miss these incredible girls, who are among my absolute best friends. I will miss schools, activities and sports for children. There is just something different in Winnipeg. People feel and treat you like family, and I am very grateful to have experienced this. I will always be a Winnipegger at heart. Thank you very much to this city and the Jets organization for everything. Xo
“I have only been grateful to the Jets for the past eight incredible years in Winnipeg. What a great experience it has been. To have our first baby here now raising three children in this popular community. We grew up together and as a family here, and I wouldn’t change that for the world. The support from the people of Winnipeg has been overwhelming, “she wrote.
“I never thought for a second that our time here would be shortened under these circumstances. The past eight months have been the hardest of my life. I had a hard time accepting the situation. I struggled as a wife and as a mother under stress. I didn’t want all of this to be true. This is the only life I have known in a long time, and I am beyond the devastation of having to leave here. I love this city and the people of it. “
Cheveldayoff shed new light on the timeline on Friday as it unfolded. Byfuglien first approached him on September 11 – the night before the start of training camp – with a surprising announcement.
“He informed me that he did not know if he had it in him to continue playing in the NHL. It was a very emotional time. This is something which, I think, is still a bit of a private matter, and it will remain a bit private. But it was moving. It was difficult for him to even come and talk to me, “said Cheveldayoff.
“At that time, I asked him if he wanted a job and he said no, it had nothing to do with a job. He just didn’t know if he had it in him to keep playing. “
Cheveldayoff met with Byfuglien again on September 21, as training camp is well advanced and alignment decisions are on the horizon.
“He said he still didn’t want to retire but still didn’t know he had it on him to keep playing. At that point, I said, “Look, I have to suspend you,” and he got it and we stopped there, “he said.
The saga took another turn on October 3.
“I got a phone call from his agent (Ben Hankinson) saying he had good news, that Dustin wanted to play again but wanted ankle surgery. It was the first conversation that was an indication, one – that he wanted to play and, two – that there was surgery, “said Cheveldayoff, who met Byfuglien and Hankinson during the opening game of Winnipeg October 10 for further discussion.
Surgery was performed on October 23 and Byfuglien expected to resume skating in mid-January with the idea of returning to play soon after. But that never happened.
“His agent informed me that he was not going to continue his rehabilitation and that his ankle was healed, but that he was not going to play hockey,” said Cheveldayoff. Once again, he asked if an exchange was requested. It wasn’t.
In the meantime, a grievance had been filed by the NHLPA, essentially arguing that Byfuglien should have been paid when he was injured, but no hearing has been scheduled. It seems that the grievance does not have much behind it; Byfuglien made no mention of the persistent ankle problem when he showed up at camp, said Cheveldayoff.
The case is now closed. And the last two years of Byfuglien, with an annual cap of $ 7.6 million, are no longer available.
“It was a pleasure to fight Buff every night. I will not miss all the hitters he has hit me with over the years, but I will miss the way you played the game, kept the game free and turned your back. for eight years. Our families will be lifelong friends and maybe I’ll let you take me fishing one day, “said Jets captain Blake Wheeler on Friday.
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