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Dustin Byfuglien: Five potential landing spots for the now former Winnipeg Jets defenseman

Sporting News logo Sporting News 4/18/2020 Sam Ficarro
Dustin Byfuglien skiing on the snow © Provided by Sporting News

The Dustin Byfuglien saga came to a conclusion Friday as the defenseman agreed to mutually terminate his contract with the Winnipeg Jets.

Byfuglien was suspended in September after he failed to report to training camp while mulling retirement. The 35-year-old then underwent ankle surgery in October, putting his NHL future in limbo.

According to TSN's Frank Seravalli, Byfuglien sacrificed the remaining $14 million on his contract, which was set to expire after next season. The NHL confirmed to The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun that Byfuglien will not be able to sign with a team for the 2019-20 season, should it resume.

It's still unclear whether Byfuglien will lace up the skates again, but he is surely a wanted commodity for many teams should he decide to play next season. The three-time All-Star has tallied 525 points in 869 career games with the Chicago Blackhawks and Atlanta/Winnipeg.

Here are five possible destinations for Byfuglien.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Like previous years, Toronto's defense was an area of concern all season long. Injuries plagued the Leafs' blue line, and the team was tied for the sixth-worst defense in the league this season (3.17 goals-against-per-game).

The Maple Leafs have three defensemen set to become free agents in Tyson Barrie, Cody Ceci and Travis Dermott, which should clear up some cap space. According to CapFriendly, the Maple Leafs are currently slated to have $7 million to work with.

MORE: NHL free agency 2020: List of best available players

Byfuglien would provide an offensively productive, puck-moving defenseman on the blue line, especially if Barrie departs this offseason. With a full season off, he would probably also come at a relatively low cost for the cap-strained Leafs.

Florida Panthers

Similar to the Maple Leafs, the Panthers have had a leaky defense this season, ranking tied-for-third in GA/G (3.25). Despite that, the Panthers were right on the playoff bubble before the season paused.

Panthers defensemen Mark Pysyk and MacKenzie Weegar are set to become free agents after the season. Byfuglien could replace Pysyk as one of Florida's right-handed defenseman while also adding a physical presence. The Panthers ranked 27th in hits per game (18.1) this season while Byfuglien has tallied at least 200 hits four times in his career.

Buffalo Sabres

Buffalo could be an interesting landing spot for the Sabres should they decide not to re-sign restricted free agent Brandon Montour. The 26-year-old defenseman scored 18 points in 54 games in 2019-20.

After strong starts to begin each of the last two seasons, the Sabres faded out of playoff contention by January and have not made the playoffs since 2011. Buffalo's defense ranks the 10th-worst in the league allowing 3.12 goals against.

The Sabres need help on the back end and could be one of the most aggressive teams in the offseason as they will have $36 million in cap space, per CapFriendly

NHL free agency 2020: Complete list of all 31 teams UFA, RFA players

Nashville Predators

The Predators clawed back into a playoff spot under new head coach John Hynes before the season was paused. What has defined the Predators in recent years has been their defense, but this season they have taken a step backward.

In the two previous years, Nashville had the league's stingiest defense allowing just 2.54 GA/G; this season, they're 21st (3.10).

Nashville is set to have three defensemen become free agents in Yannick Weber, Dan Hamhuis and Korbinian Holzer. Byfuglien would give them two solid defensive pairings with Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm.

Washington Capitals

The Capitals have been led by Norris Trophy candidate John Carlson this season. The 30-year-old blueliner has posted 75 points but the rest of the defensemen have combined for 77.

Byfuglien could plug right in and be a high-scoring defenseman, with Washington having the second-highest scoring offense, averaging 3.42 goals-for-per-game. He would also improve the Capitals defense, which ranks 18th in the league allowing 3.07 GA/G.

Defensemen Radko Gudas, trade-deadline acquisition Brenden Dillon and Jonas Siegenthaler are all set to become free agents this offseason.

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