Why Now Is the Time to Deal Dustin Byfuglien

Everyone knows the Blackhawks will face some tough decisions with their roster in the coming days/weeks, and while the departure of free agents is easily justified (the Hawks simply cannot afford players like John Madden next year), whenever a fan favorite is traded it’s hard to stomach his departure.

After an incredible postseason in which he led the entire NHL with five game-winning goals, Dustin Byfuglien is riding high in the eyes of Hawks fans… and general managers all over the league. Because of this, now is the time for the Hawks to trade Dustin Byfuglien.

Has Byfuglien played his last in Chicago?

For the knee-jerk reactions out there that say “You can’t move him after these playoffs!” I simply say slow you’re roll. If you look back at the overall body of work, there is really no question that Byfuglien is not only the best “sell-high” candidate on the Blackhawks roster, but arguably the most over rated player in the NHL right now.

Look back at Byfuglien’s career. He was brought up as a defenseman, but was moved to a wing spot by Denis Savard to utilize his size. He truly emerged on the scene in Chicago in 2007-08, playing in 67 games and scoring a then-career best 19 goals and adding 17 assists in just over 17 minutes of ice time per night. It appeared that Byfuglien might be on the road to developing into a solid power forward.

The problem, though, is that the 19 goals he scored three seasons ago is still his career best.

In 2008-09, Byfuglien stepped back from 36 points to 31 (15 G, 16 A) in ten more games (77). And while he moved back up to 34 points (17 G, 17 A) in 2009-10, he again played in more games (82) without seeing a significant jump in production.

Last spring, Byfuglien showed the spark that made him a darkhorse Conn Smythe candidate this year when he started to post-up in front of Roberto Luongo and the Vancouver Canucks had no answer for his size. During the regular season this year, though, Byfuglien did not consistently show the flashes of brilliance that he was able to bottle in that short series against the Canucks.

Between Jan. 30 and March 14, Byfuglien had separate pointless streaks of seven and five games before being forced to the blue line when Brian Campbell was injured. Indeed, Byfuglien was a ghost for most of the first half of the season, recording only five points (all goals) in a 22-game stretch between Oct. 21 and Dec. 11 of last year.

Is this a player you would rather keep at $3M than Patrick Sharp, Kris Versteeg or Andrew Ladd?

Now consider that Byfuglien had the worst plus-minus (-7) on the team last year, and continued to post deceptive numbers with a team-worst -4 in the postseason. Let’s frame that number from the regular season into context. Of all the Blackhawks that averaged at least 16 minutes per night (there were 11 not including Kim Johnsson), the second-worst plus-minus on the roster belonged to Dave Bolland. In only 39 games, and dealing with a back injury and recovery, Bolland was +5 on the season – a full 12 points better than Byfuglien.

To those that will point to the perception that Byfuglien is a good, or even decent, defensive forward, I will again call foul. For a player that was able to switch to the blue line for the final month of the season relatively effectively, it’s hard to justify Byfuglien playing 6:06 short-handed all season. That’s an average of only four seconds per game short-handed.

Now consider Byfuglien’s price tag of $3.000M for next year.

Last year, for $1.025M, Troy Brouwer had more goals (22), assists (18), points (40) and was +9 in nearly identical average ice time (16:22) to Byfuglien (16:25) in the regular season. Furthermore, when you consider Brouwer had 189 hits to Byfuglien’s 215, but was whistled for only 66 penalty minutes to Byfuglien’s 94, the value proposition of Byfuglien’s salary to a team that’s tight against the salary cap doesn’t seem to be appropriate.

But I’m willing to play the devil’s advocate. What if the 2010 playoffs truly were the Coming Out Party for Big Buff. What if the kid that dominated the crease (except for the first four games of the Finals) is really what Byfuglien is about to become?

Byfuglien has only one year left on his contract. The market for power forwards is such in the NHL right now that, given the ongoing financial restraints the Hawks could feel for the next two to three years, Byfuglien would be out of the Blackhawks’ price range if he truly does become an elite power forward at 26 years old.

If the Blackhawks are going to move salary off their books, it’s time for Blackhawks fans to begin grieving the loss of Byfuglien. If someone is willing to send the Hawks a top prospect or high draft pick for him based on the promise we all watched in the playoffs this year, Stan Bowman would be a fool not to take it and run.

9 thoughts on “Why Now Is the Time to Deal Dustin Byfuglien

  • June 21, 2010 at 11:29 am

    Nooooooooo!!! Although I agree with you that Byfuglien is kind of an up and down player, he is a force to be reckoned with. Would you want to play against him…I think not! He also is a genuinely nice guy…I had the fortunate opportunity to meet him at a meet-and-greet event last November. I had my twin boys with me (they were 4 at the time), and was talking to them, asked them what they were for Halloween, gave them high fives…etc. The same could be said for any of the Hawks players, I suppose, but Byfuglien would be sorely missed…at least by me. :-(

  • June 21, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Most over-rated player.Agreed 100%.

  • June 21, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    absolutely NOT….DO NOT TRADE HIM….would rather lose Versteeg

  • June 21, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    versteeg, buff or both must go… KEEP SHARP.

  • June 21, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    overrated? yes.
    nice guy? definitely.

    him over sharp versteeg or ladd? no way.

    Buff is awesome…and yes he had a great playoff run, but as was stated throughout this article his consistency just isn’t there. I really love him as a player and he’s great to have in front of the net but if it all came to buff or one of the other guys…I’d have to cover my eyes and bid farewell to the beloved big buff.

  • June 21, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    Hope to post more later but tell me where can we get a guy at 3M a year that can win a playoff series.

    Who CARES what he does in the regular season? I could care less if he takes a nap for 82 games. This guy is the focal point of EVERYTHING in the playoffs. He can win rounds almost by himself against teams that have no big physical D-men. Hint, there are a LOT of them in the west. VAN, SJ, DET. He can win rounds? Why give him away? Versteeg can’t do more than he did this playoff.

    Buff is part of our core. He does not need to improve on what he is for him to be a no-brainer to keep this year. No one could possibly give you enough for him.

    OK, I will take a guy who will STINK ON ICE in the regular season but will be the focal point of entire TEAMS come playoff time. Tell me where I get that for less than 3M per and tell me who in their right mind would do that and be sane enough to know Stan’s phone number.

    Buff is invaluable at any cap number when he is winning rounds for you. Besides, Toews and Kaneare LOOKING for him now. He is a BIG part of the team. Laid back, fits in and takes a lot of press come playoff time like I said. That is of HUGE value. Now after he is 3M this year and a lock not to be moved we can talk next year about what is he worth.

    But for now he ain’t goin anywhere at 3M.

    You should HOPE he bites in the regular season to keep his contract down. Again, with this depth we have, we do NOT need him to do ANYTHING in the regualr season at all. Why compare stats? This guy can play D in a pinch, huge. I could go on and on.

    I disagree with the article. The premise is incorrect. His regular season is not needed on this team but for how playoff hockey is played is 3M is a STEAL.

  • June 21, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    I don’t think you understand the premise of the article you’re disagreeing with, Steve. The issue isn’t with his postseason production; it never was. The issue is with his $3M price tag. The Blackhawks MUST cut payroll.

    If you had to choose between Patrick Sharp and Dustin Byfuglien, both of whom scored 11 goals in the postseason, who would you choose. Because that’s the reality we’re dealing with right now. It’s A vs. B, and I’m choosing A) Patrick Sharp all day, every day.

  • June 21, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    oh I agree having Patrick Sharp on our team is like a warm blanket on a cold night. (insert better metaphors here).

    My point is you don’t cut buff. You can’t. You cut fat not muscle.

    I have my own spreadsheet and I have not checked your math yet but I think this goes away if they cut huet.

    The 3 biggest things that need to be decided are

    a) huet
    b) Niemi
    c) Hammer

    After that you see what happens. You tell burish and eager sorry boys we can give X after we know Y. If someone gives you more gravy feel free to take it no hard feelings.

    but back to your point. 3M is a bargain for ONLY post season play. That is all that matters. We are NOT in danger of making the post-season so consider him a perk.
    I have been busy with stuff but great articles and I haven’t even read the prospects one.

    I want to focus on FA time and get this cap down like some friends did this past summer. We were pretty close.
    I don’t think it comes down to buff is gone if Huet is here.

    PS I like the new look of the site.

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