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Byfuglien meets with coach while on leave from Jets

Maurice had 'wonderful conversation' with defenseman who's reportedly pondering future in NHL

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / Staff Writer

WINNIPEG -- Dustin Byfuglien met with Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice on Thursday before the defenseman's leave of absence continued into its second week.

"I'm not making any comments," Maurice said Friday. "He's got a life. I love the guy. I sat down and had a wonderful conversation with him yesterday, and it was great. That's it."

The 34-year-old was granted a personal leave of absence last Friday, the day the Jets opened training camp, and reportedly has been pondering his future in hockey.


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Maurice was asked about pictures on social media of Byfuglien having dinner in Winnipeg on Thursday and comments from people in the photos who said they were told by the defenseman that he plans to return to the Jets.

"I would never read that," Maurice said. "Because I would have never seen it. Is this news? I'm trying to be kind here. I would say nothing to anything that a fan said something to somebody and it made it on a (social media) platform."

Byfuglien had 31 points (four goals, 27 assists) in 42 games last season and eight points (two goals, six assists) in six Stanley Cup Playoff games. He missed 15 games from Dec. 31-Feb. 5 because of a lower-body injury and missed 19 from Feb. 16-March 28 because of a different lower-body injury.

Video: WPG@STL, Gm6: Byfuglien slams rebound by Binnington

"Dustin is a big part of our family here," Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said. "There's always an open policy for discussions. We always care about people of our family. One thing I will say, healthwise, everything is good for him and his family. But again, from our standpoint, we support Dustin and look forward to the resolution."

The Jets are without three other key defensemen from last season. Jacob Trouba was traded to the New York Rangers on June 17, Tyler Myers signed as a free agent with the Vancouver Canucks on July 1, and Ben Chiarot signed as a free agent with the Montreal Canadiens on July 4. Winnipeg allowed 243 goals last season (17th in NHL) after allowing 216 in 2017-18 (fifth).

The Jets are also missing forwards Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor. Each is a restricted free agent who has not reported to training camp. Laine is training with SC Bern, a professional team in Switzerland.

Byfuglien is entering his 10th season with the Winnipeg Jets/Atlanta Thrashers after playing his first five NHL seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks. He has 525 points (177 goals, 348 assists) in 869 NHL games.

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