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Byfuglien's retirement could create odd cap situation for Jets

september 18, 2019
While there are a few "what-ifs" involved in this scenario, it is an interesting one all the same. It was revealed Wednesday morning by TSN Insider Bob McKenzie that Dustin Byfuglien's leave of the absence from Winnipeg is about him contemplating his NHL future. Should Byfuglien decide not to return to the game, the Jets could be facing a situation where they are below the salary cap floor.

As Winnipeg Sun reporter Scott Billick explains, Byfuglien's retirement would wipe his $7.6 million salary off the Jets' books. Winnipeg currently has a cap hit of $66,049,164. Losing Byfuglien's salary would place the Jets below the cap floor of $60.2 million, if restricted free agents Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor are not signed before the regular season begins.

While all seems to be quiet on negotiations with Connor, it's anything but when it comes to Laine. The 21-year-old Finnish sniper has made it clear that his holdout from signing isn't entirely about money. He wants top line minutes playing along side Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele. To make that kind of promise to a player puts the coach and team in a very tough position. Allowing a player to dictate where he plays and who he plays with essentially removes a coach's authority to make decisions when they are needed. It's very doubtful Winnipeg, or any team, would make that type of promise to a player, other than to say prove to us you deserve those minutes and you'll get them.

As for potential punishments for not hitting the cap floor, here's what it states in the current collective bargaining agreement between the league and players. Keep in mind that circumvention of the cap refers to being under the cap floor or over the ceiling:

(i) Impose a fine of up to $5 million in the case of a Circumvention by a Club or Club Actor, but in no circumstances shall such fine be less than $1 million against any Club or Club Actor if such party is found to have violated Article 50 of this Agreement. If such a fine is assessed against a Club (except in the case of a financial reporting violation), that Club's Payroll Room shall also be reduced by such amount for the following League Year, and if such reduction of the Club's Payroll Room renders the Club out of compliance with the Payroll Range (i.e., the Club does not have sufficient Payroll Room to accommodate its Player commitments comprising Club Salary) for such following League Year, then the Club must take such steps as are necessary (e.g., Assignment, Buy-Out, Waivers, etc.) and as are permitted by this Agreement to ensure that the Club will be in compliance with Article 50 of this Agreement upon commencement of the following League Year;

(ii) Impose a fine against a Player of up to the lesser of $1 million or twentyfive (25%) percent of a Player's Paragraph 1 Salary in the case of a Circumvention by a Player or Player Actor, but in no circumstances shall such fine be below the lesser of $250,000 or twenty-five (25%) percent of the Player's Paragraph 1 Salary. Notwithstanding the $1 million limitation set forth above, any additional amounts by which the Player has been unjustly enriched due to the Circumvention shall be ordered to be disgorged;

(iii) Direct a Club to forfeit draft picks (the number, placement, and League Year of which shall be determined in the Commissioner's sole discretion);

(iv) Declare a forfeiture of any NHL Game(s) determined to have been affected by a Circumvention;

(v) Direct a Club to disclose and report to the Independent Accountants all information required by this Agreement, including, without limitation, by the provisions of Article 50;

(vi) Void any SPC, or any extension of an SPC, between any Player and any Club when both the Player or Player Actor and the Club or Club Actor are found to have committed such a violation with respect to such SPC or extension; and

(vii) Suspend any Club employee, Player, or Certified Agent involved in such a violation for a period of time determined in the sole discretion of the Commissioner, the System Arbitrator, or the NHLPA, respectively.

All of this may be moot points as Winnipeg could quickly sign Laine and/or Connor before the season begins, or could simply look at free agents left on the market and give one of them enough money to get where they need to be while other details are sorted out. And, perhaps, Byfuglien decides he wants to return after all. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

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