Today, the Atlanta Thrashers announced an extension with leading scorer and blue line stalwart Dustin Byfuglien. The deal, according to Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution via Twitter, is believed to be over five years and worth 26 million dollars.
While only in his first year with the team, the versatile skater found a way to make an impact in Atlanta. Not only does he lead the team in overall scoring but he also ranks second in assists, goals, time of ice and powerplay points while outshooting everyone on the team by a whopping 84. The former Blackhawk is a threat from the blue line and vital to their strategy from the man advantage, seemingly blasting shot after shot from the blue line.
As we discussed earlier in the season, Byfuglien earned his raise.
Usually a player of this caliber is re-signed to avoid a messy situation in the offseason. In addition, knowing your team believes in you enough to lock you up for years in the middle of a stretch run can be invigorating, just look at what it did for Pekka Rinne last year.
This current Thrashers team is built on the back of players like Byfuglien as well as Evander Kane, Andrew Ladd, Tobias Enstrom, etc. To win, they need to ride their ponies win or lose which seems to be their game plan. Locking up an important piece like Byfuglien will help stabilize their fans, who now know the team truly will commit to building/keeping a winner.
Even though Byfuglien’s production has waned somewhat– only one goal/point in 11 January games– his re-signing should be all the motivation needed to make a strong push. We do not think he hits 70-80 points as his high-scoring pace previously projected but 60 points seem within reach, especially with Enstrom back in the mix.
Say what you will about the price, his new contract will not hurt his fantasy value this season. Paying 5.2 million on the cap should be pennies should Big Buff turn into an elite offensive defenseman.