Dustin Byfuglien Takes Leave of Absence from Winnipeg Jets

NHL Rumours; Dustin Byfuglien
OTTAWA, ON - FEBRUARY 09: Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien (33) during warm-up before National Hockey League action between the Winnipeg Jets and Ottawa Senators on February 9, 2019, at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, ON, Canada. (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien has been granted a leave of absence from the team to address personal matters. The team’s public relations department announced it via their Twitter account. This comes as teams including the Jets are preparing for preseason training camp.

Dustin Byfuglien Takes Leave of Absence from Winnipeg Jets

Byfuglien has been in the NHL for 14 years, mostly with Winnipeg. He was originally drafted as a Chicago Blackhawk in the eighth round of the 2003 NHL Draft. Byfuglien has posted 177 goals and 525 points over that time. Those totals put him 15th in total scoring from that draft class despite his low selection.

Age could be starting to catch up to Byfuglien as his scoring dipped to just 31 points in 42 games. Injuries impacted the 6’5″ veteran in a big way; his hard-hitting style is starting to impact his health with 53 games missed in the past two years combined. 2019-20 represents an opportunity for the long-time Jet to rebound and show he is still capable of filling up a stat sheet. The team doesn’t have much in the way of offensive depth on the blue line. Jacob Trouba to the New York Rangers and Tyler Myers moved to the Vancouver Canucks in free agency, so Byfuglien’s absence could be big for a Winnipeg team with playoff aspirations.

What This Means for the Future

There is no timetable for Byfuglien’s return. Speaking with TSN 1290 Radio, Jets Coach Paul Maurice indicated that Byfuglien is fine and there is nothing ‘sinister’ about his leave. Maurice and Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff will meet with the media later today to discuss Byfuglien’s leave further.

Byfuglien was expected to anchor the first power-play unit but that job could now fall to Josh Morrissey. The 24-year-old scored 31 points last year and could be poised for big things on the heels of his new contract. Neal Pionk and Dmitry Kulikov will also factor in on special teams.

Additionally, some combination of Sami Niku, Tucker Poolman and Anthony Bitetto will be in line for more ice time if Byfuglien’s absence stretches further into the regular season. This absence is a personal matter but could still have a big impact on the team’s depth chart.
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