The Atlanta Thrashers have signed defenseman Dustin Byfuglien to a multiple-year contract extension, according to General Manager Rick Dudley.
“Dustin has emerged into an elite player this season and been invaluable as a leader both on and off the ice," said Dudley. "It was a priority to sign him and we’re looking forward to witnessing his All-Star caliber play for many years to come.”
Byfuglien, 25, leads the team and ranks fifth in the NHL among defenseman in scoring with 43 points (17 goals, 26 assists) this season while leading all league defenseman in goals. He has tallied six game-winning goals, one shy of the NHL record for a defenseman in a single season and tied the Thrashers single-game scoring record for a defensemen with four points (one goal, three assists) against Boston on Nov. 28. Byfuglien was named the NHL’s second star of the week (period ending Nov. 28) and the league’s third star for the month of November. For his efforts this season, he was also named an NHL All-Star.
What a difference a year makes. Just a season ago, the Thrashers’ then general-manager Don Waddell had to send out this missive regarding Ilya Kovalchuk not thinking the team was worth his long-term plans. The Thrashers’ current ability to retain top-tier talent is something that sends a decisive message to the hockey world about how the players are feeling about this franchise.