The 30-year-old will earn an average annual salary of $7.6 million over the course of the deal. Pro Hockey Talk's Mike Halford noted where the contract stacks up among the league's highest-paid defensemen:
Highest cap hits for d-men:— Mike Halford (@HalfordPHT) February 8, 2016
ESPN The Magazine's Craig Custance argued Byfuglien is more than worth the investment for Winnipeg:
Jets paid premium to keep the term at 5 years but they made the right call here with Dustin Byfuglien. Reasonable term. Hard to replace.— Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) February 8, 2016
E.J. Hradek of NHL Network believes both parties will end up benefiting from the contract:
Re Byfuglien new deal: team gives more $$ per year, player takes one less year in term. Compromise makes sense for both. Hard guy to replace— EJ Hradek (@EJHradek_NHL) February 8, 2016
Byfuglien is on pace to have one of the best seasons of his career. In 52 games, he has amassed 32 points, tied for 13th among fellow defensemen. His 15 goals, meanwhile, are tied for second at his position.
By signing Byfuglien now, the Jets are avoiding a potential conundrum in the buildup to the Feb. 29 trade deadline. General manager Kevin Cheveldayoff doesn't have to worry about whether trading the veteran defenseman would be in the team's best interests rather than taking its chances in free agency.
ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun ventures plenty of suitors were hoping Byfuglien would have been available in the coming weeks:
Byfuglien very popular player in that market. A must sign. Those who aren't so happy are contending teams who had hoped to trade for him— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) February 8, 2016
There's no question re-signing Byfuglien was the right move for the Jets. Winnipeg might be one of the worst teams in the Western Conference, but it couldn't afford to let Byfuglien slip through its grasp given his immense talent coupled with his ability to help at both ends of the ice.
By keeping one of their best players, the Jets are also sending the message they want to turn their fortunes around and become a steady fixture in the playoffs after missing out on the postseason in seven of the last eight years.