February 15, 2011
The Atlanta Thrashers have signed pending restricted free agent (and Jeremy Roenick's favorite hip-hop artist) Dustin Byfuglien(notes) to a five-year, $26-million deal, with a "modified" no-trade clause (via Craig Custance) and an annual cap hit of $5.2 million.
That cap hit puts him in Mike Green(notes) territory ($5.25 million) and slightly above what Paul Martin(notes) received as an unrestricted free agent last summer ($5 million annually). It also finally topples Ron Hainsey(notes) as the Thrashers' top-paid defenseman, although it sadly does nothing to remedy the fact that Ron Hainsey makes $4.5 million against the cap ...
"Dustin has emerged into an elite player this season and been invaluable as a leader both on and off the ice," said General Manager Rick Dudley. "It was a priority to sign him and we're looking forward to witnessing his All-Star caliber play for many years to come."
Byfuglien, 25, leads the team and ranks fifth in the NHL among defenseman in scoring with 43 points (17 goals, 26 assists) this season while leading all league defenseman in goals.
There's no question that Byfuglien owes a large debt to Tobias Enstrom(notes) for his success this season, as he's skated with the Swede over 70 percent of the time between even strength and the power play. This deal solidifies that pairing for at least the next two seasons, as Enstrom is inked through 2013.
Was Byfuglien's revelatory year as a defenseman tied to his playing for a contract? Time will tell. The Thrashers wanted to keep him, they're keeping him, and he just made his old teammate Brent Seabrook(notes) a very rich man in the near future.
Plus, isn't it nice to see a significant name choose to stay in the A-T-L for once?