Dustin Byfuglien: Atlanta Thrashers Sign Big Buff To Lucrative 5-Year Extension

Warren ShawCorrespondent IIFebruary 17, 2011

Big Buf signed a five year deal for 25 million dollars with the Thrashers
Big Buf signed a five year deal for 25 million dollars with the ThrashersClaus Andersen/Getty Images

The love affair with Atlanta Thrashers and Dustin Byfuglien continued the week of Valentine’s Day. The team announced that Big Buff signed a five-year extension for $25 million.

Byfuglien who was acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks prior to the season emerged as an All-Star after transitioning from forward to defenseman.

In the first half of the season, the Thrashers were the talk of the NHL and Byfuglien was touted as a Norris Trophy candidate, which recognizes the best all-around defensemen in the league.

Unfortunately, the team could not maintain the pace and suffered a string of disappointing losses.    

Injuries and inconsistent scoring have been the main reasons for the team's rapid decline in the standings.

Despite the slide the Thrashers are in striking distance of a playoff spot for the only the second time in the franchise’s history.

To measure exactly where the team has been in the last 12 games it is surprising to find that there have been numerous close games. In many of those contests, the team has lost by only a goal.

Also different this season has been opposing teams willingness to admit that the Thrashers have hustled and scrapped for most of the three periods of play. 

That of course was not the case when the team leaders were Ilya Kovalchuk, Max Afinogenov and others who have since moved on. 

Troubling for the Thrashers has been the team’s lack of consistent scoring among its forwards and its dependence on defensemen Byfuglien and Enstrom to lead the offense every game.

General Manager Rick Dudley and Coach Craig Ramsay have stabilized what has been a week element on the team by signing extensions for both of the All-Stars.

Now their next objective is to find a way to get more scoring out of the forward lines and put together the necessary string of wins to catapult them into the playoffs.

As for Byfuglien, he recognizes the pressure that the new contract presents. Now is the time for him to deliver even more.

In a statement released by the team, Dudley commented, "Dustin has emerged into an elite player this season and been invaluable as a leader both on and off the ice. It was a priority to sign him and we're looking forward to witnessing his All-Star caliber play for many years to come."


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