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Byfuglien remains on leave, Jets consider replacement options

Suspended defenseman missed training camp for personal reasons

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

WINNIPEG -- Dustin Byfuglien remains on a leave of absence for personal reasons and the Winnipeg Jets are considering options to replace the defenseman.

"The situation with [Byfuglien] is status quo," Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said Monday. "What that means as far as my level of activity, again you look at what might be available, what might not be available. You add into it the equation of the [NHL salary cap]. You add into it the equation of timing. You add into it the assets you may have.

"But that would be no different if [Byfuglien] was here. The cap space might be a little bit different, but that's a normal occurrence in a hockey team. You're always looking and evaluating when options or opportunities are there."

 

[RELATED: Byfuglien absence from Jets remains 'status quo,' GM says]

 

The Jets open the season against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; MSG, TSN3, NHL.TV) and Cheveldayoff said they are prepared to play without their most experienced defenseman.

"Again, it's like any injury right now -- you treat it like that," Cheveldayoff said. "That's really the preparedness level that you're at. The coaches, when a player gets injured, they take his name and put him onto the [injured reserve] or they put him off to the side and they deal with what they have in front of them.

"I think our coaches have done a fantastic job of dealing with what they've had in front of them and they're going to continue to do that. If I walk back into the office and say this is what is happening with [Byfuglien] or that's happening with [Byfuglien], they'll act accordingly because that's what coaches do." 

Video: Kyle Connor agrees to seven-year deal with the Jets

The Jets suspended Byfuglien, who did not attend training camp, Sept. 21 with his full knowledge.

The 34-year-old has two years remaining on a five-year, $38 million contract (average annual value $7.6 million) signed Feb. 8, 2016. His salary would be $8 million this season and $6 million next season.

He 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 19 from Feb. 16-March 28 because of a different lower-body injury.

Cheveldayoff said he spoke to Byfuglien a couple of days ago, but declined to get into any more specifics of the situation Monday.

"I basically have said the situation is status quo and it will remain status quo until you hear an announcement from the team or me at some point in time," he said.

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