Dustin Byfuglien Is Atlanta's Surprise Star; Now They Have To Pay Him Like One

NHL Atlanta Thrashers

Atlanta Thrashers defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, plucked from the cap room-starved Chicago Blackhawks this summer, is off to a historic start for the franchise. 

It took him just 31 games to break the Thrashers’ team record for goals by a defenseman in a season.

Before this year Byfuglien has played on the wing for most of his career and had never scored more than 19 goals in a season.  He’d never scored more than 36 points in a year either, a number he’s already matched this year — while playing defence.

It’s a unique case.  Byfuglien would be a restricted free agent following the year and the Thrashers must come to an agreement with their star player.  But there isn’t recent precedent for a player having this much success after switching positions — from forward to defence where point totals would normally decline — during a contract year. 

Byfuglien leads the NHL in goals, assists, and points by a defenseman and is a healthy plus-10 on the season.  If he keeps this pace up he’d finish with a jaw-dropping 27 goals and 55 assists on the year, the most points by a defender since 1995. 

The Thrashers might have little choice but to make Byfuglien one of the highest-paid defenders in the league. Not a great prospect for attendance and cash-starved teams.


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