Is Dustin Byfuglien a possibility for the Florida Panthers?

Winnipeg and Big Buff agree on a contract termination

The Winnipeg Jets and Dustin Byfuglien have agreed to a contract termination. The NHL said that the defenseman and the club have finally resolved the grievance filed by the the 35-year-old veteran after he opted not to report to training camp last September and was suspended by the Jets.

The falling out between the two parties started after Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff was told on September 11th that  Byfuglien had lost the desire to ever play again. Ten days later, the two men met with Byfuglien telling his GM he wasn’t ready to retire, but that he wasn’t ready to play either due to an ankle injury. Cheveldayoff decided to suspend Byfuglien at this time. In October, Byfuglien’s agent informed Cheveldayoff that Byfuglien wanted to return, but needed surgery on his bum ankle, which was performed later in the month. After the surgery, the sides agreed that Byfuglien would return to the team in early 2020 after he fully recovered. On November 20, the NHLPA filed a grievance on Byfuglien’s behalf that challenged his suspension, which Cheveldayoff downplayed at the time. When the time came for Big Buff to get back on the ice, he changed his mind again, eventually leading to yesterday’s termination agreement.

He is now an unrestricted free agent and able to sign with any team once the NHL figures out when the offseason will officially begin.

Byfuglien has 525 points (177G/348A) in 869 career games. He played his first five seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks and one with the Atlanta Thrashers before that franchise moved to Winnipeg before the 2011-12 season.

Florida GM Dale Tallon was Chicago’s general manager for a chunk of the time Byfuglien was with the team. The blueliner helped the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup the year after Tallon left the franchise and was subsequently traded to the Thrashers the following offseason due to Chicago’s salary cap problems.

Is there a connection between the two that would help bring the strapping, aggressive and still offensively-productive defender to Sunrise if he wants to continue his NHL career after taking a year off? With serious issues in its own end, the Panthers could certainly use a player like  Byfuglien if he was 100% healthy and committed to playing and willing to take a low-money, short-term deal.

Remember, when a player is 35 or over, the team is on the hook for the entirety of a contract even if that player retires. So, with Byfuglien already waffling on the Jets, you don’t want to sign him for a number of years.

Byfuglien put up 31 points (4G/27A) in 42 games in the 2018-19 season, his eighth in Winnipeg. He twice was sidelined due to different lower-body injuries.

There are definitely a lot of years and miles on Dustin Byfuglien. That said, with a full year (and maybe more) off, he could be completely rejuvenated and have a point to prove to himself and the rest of the league. If the Cats could get him on, ideally, a one-year deal, for say $2 or $3 million, he could be a risk well worth taking.

Should the Cats try to sign Dustin Byfuglien?

Yes, whatever it takes17
Yes, one-year deal only50
No, stay away40