The Thrashers locked up their big, point-producing defenseman on Tuesday, signing him to a five-year, $26 million contract extension. The news was broken by Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Consitution. It's a salary cap hit of $5.2 million a year.
A Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks and now $26 million. It hasn't been a bad few months for Mr. Byfuglien. He's in his first full year as a defenseman, where he's used his size and his scoring skill on the power play to make himself one of the top scorers on defense in the NHL. Byfuglien currently has 17 goals, which leads NHL defensemen, and 26 assists. His 43 points are behind only four other blue liners.
When you consider how many top-flight players have left Atlanta in the past, you realize this is a big deal for the Thrashers' organization. They've had trouble holding on to guys like Ilya Kovalchuk, who was traded because of an uncertainty that he'd re-sign in town, Marian Hossa and Dany Heatley to name a few.