If there is a player who can drastically alter the way free agency plays out it’s Byfuglien, depending on whether or not he wants to play hockey next season. There hasn’t been any indication of what will come next for him but if he decides to play, Byfuglien will have many suitors.
With a massive six-foot-five, 260-pound frame, there isn’t a question that the 35-year-old would be an intimidating presence on the Leafs’ blue line. Add that to his ability to produce consistently as an offensive contributor and Byfuglien would be a no-brainer option on the top pairing with Rielly.
It’s easy to say that all signs point to an ideal fit between Byfuglien and the Toronto Maple Leafs, but there are a couple of counterpoints that should be considered as well.
Seeing how the situation between Byfuglien and the Winnipeg Jets played out should provide some red flags for any NHL GM to consider. The first one being his health and the other being his desire to play.
Getting a procedure on his ankle and not playing an entire season will make the transition back to hockey tough for Byfuglien, but it’s not totally impossible either. The Leafs also might not be at the top of the Minnesota native’s list, considering Toronto won’t be able to throw a lot of money at him.
What they could do is provide more guarantees for Byfuglien by giving him a bigger signing bonus, which should be enticing to a player that walked away from $14 million.
Unless there are some assurances that Byfuglien can suit up and isn’t looking for a massive payday, the Leafs might not be a logical landing spot even though he would bring a much-needed element to the right side of the blue line.