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What is going on with Dustin Byfuglien?

How did Byfuglien go from contemplating retirement to getting surgery and taking the Jets to arbitration for his salary since the beginning of the season?

St. Louis Blues v Winnipeg Jets - Game Five Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images

The Winnipeg Jets and Dustin Byfuglien are going to be going in front of an arbitrator at some point over if Byfuglien should be paid as he was injured. There are a few issues at play here and they will all come out at some point at least to the arbitrator.

  1. The team doctor and Byfuglien signed off on him being healthy at the end of the season. Every player has to sign off on the physical as well as the doctor. Both Byfuglien and the doctor signed off meaning that at the end of the season, he was deemed healthy and agreed with it.
  2. Byfuglien came back to Winnipeg and asked the Jets for time to think about his playing future. He did not report to camp and the Jets gave him the time and space he needed to make this decision.
  3. The Jets suspended him without pay at the start of the season as is their purpose both for cap reasons and because you cannot pay someone who has not even reported to work.
  4. Byfuglien had ankle surgery on his own and told the team. He also said his foot was broken and the team did not know about it/it was not found.

So this gets us to where we are today. As far as the timeline goes, it seems like the Jets were set on giving Byfuglien the time and space needed to make an informed decision about his future. There is no telling that Byfuglien did not re-injure his ankle in the summer or break his foot over the summer. He signed off on his physical so he seems to have agreed with the doctor at the time.

An aside about ankles: I have a history of injuries with my left ankle and have gone to a physio more than once. At one point we were going over treating a second degree sprain and she told me something interesting: at some point the joint is compromised. My left ankle is permanently compromised and will always sprain/roll easily now. If this is the case with Byfuglien, and we don’t know the nature of his ankle injury, this could be why Byfuglien developed more ankle issues over the summer or his ankle never fully healed.

That said, it is hard to say what Byfuglien’s people will argue in arbitration. He is not suspended because he is injured, he is suspended because he did not report for training camp. Had he reported and then told the Jets his ankle was bothering him, he would have been fine. The suspendable act was not showing up.

No one knows exactly what is going on with Byfuglien. The arbitration hearing will be big for the NHL as they want their exit physicals to hold the importance that they currently do going forward. Byfuglien will want to get paid, but as far as I can tell he did not show up at camp and then got surgery on his ankle without telling the Jets prior to that happening. If he had talked to the team about getting a second opinion, I would have different feelings about this matter. But as an employee, Byfuglien needs to be in communication with the team even when he is suspended.

Whatever happens will be very interesting to watch and will draw attention from the NHL and NHLPA. There is no rush to schedule the arbitration hearing as Byfuglien is out for a while following his ankle surgery and the hearing is about whether he should be paid or not at this time. Based on the available information, the argument from Byfuglien is going to be very interesting if it ever comes out.