The Atlanta Thrashers have signed defenseman Dustin Byfuglien to a 5-year $26 million extension, it was announced today by General Manager Rick Dudley. Byfuglien who leads the Thrashers and ranks 5th in the NHL among defensemen with 43 points, also leads NHL defensemen in goals with 17. ” Big Buff” is tied for the Thrashers single-game scoring record for a defenseman with four points, recorded against the Boston Bruins back on November 28th.
“Dustin has emerged into an elite player this season and has 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 calibre play for many years to come,” Thrashers General Manager Rick Dudley said in a press release late this afternoon.
Byfuglien, 25, was acquired in a blockbuster trade this off-season after hoisting the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks of the Western Conference this past June. What the Thrashers knew in advance of the trade call with the National Hockey League at the time, was the amount of talent they were receiving with the likes of forwards Andrew Ladd, Akim Alui and defensemen Brent Sopel included.
What Rick Dudley was 100% sure of though, was the unique talent in Dustin Byfuglien, a 6’4 255 lbs. defenseman/forward that was more then capable of logging valuable ice time up front or back on the blueline.
“I think what we saw in the playoffs is the Dustin Byfuglien we’ve seen evolving for some time now. As a forward he’s probably one of the premier forwards in the league,” Rick Dudley said back in June during a news conference announcing the off-season trade.
What the Thrashers had in store for the Minneapolis, MN native wasn’t known until Head Coach Craig Ramsey arrived in Duluth, GA to address the media prior to Training Camp and announce that Byfuglien would begin camp on the blueline, a position well liked by #33.
The decision by Craig Ramsey and his staff has paid dividends for the Thrashers well over the mid-way marker of the 2010-11 campaign. Byfuglien has thrived as a blueliner in racking up points in offensive categories and making his first appearance at the NHL All Star game in Raleigh, NC, as the lone representative for Thrasher Nation.
Hockey experts across the NHL had wondered if Dustin Byfuglien had any interest in staying long term in the Atlanta area, given his restricted free agent status at the conclusion of this season. Rightfully so, given the history of the difficult nature of signing free agent talent when the clock strikes midnight on July 1st.
New management, new direction, new leadership and the bright future of this hockey team, made the signing today an easy one for a player who has quickly become a fan favorite at the Phillips Arena.
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