Jets shrug off idea Byfuglien may be gone for good
Forwards Scheifele, Copp say they've been forced to adapt to life without defenceman
Some members of the Winnipeg Jets are shrugging off the idea Dustin Byfuglien will never play alongside them again.
The six-foot-five defenceman, who hasn't played for the Jets all season, is close to ending his contractual relationship with Winnipeg, according to Sportsnet and TSN.
The sports networks reported Monday the Jets and Byfuglien are working on a deal to terminate the final two years of their agreement. Such a move could free Byfuglien up to play with other clubs and allow the Jets to spend money on other players.
The Jets play the Nashville Predators on Tuesday. At the morning skate, centre Mark Scheifele called Byfuglien "an unbelievable player" but said the defenceman's departure wouldn't affect the Jets on the ice at this point of the season.
"It's tough to see a guy go, but you know we've been without him all year," Scheifele said. "It's not like anything changes now. It's not like things are really different."
The Jets suspended Byfuglien in September during training camp. He underwent ankle surgery in October without the involvement of the team.
Forward Andrew Copp called him an "impactful player" who did a lot for the club but said the team has been forced to make do without him for months now.
"We've gone to battle with this group for more than 50 games now and this is the group we've got," said Copp, who also noted a number of the players on the 2018-19 Jets did not return this season.
They include forward Brandon Tanev, who signed with Pittsburgh as a free agent, defencemen Jacob Trouba (traded to the New York Rangers), Tyler Myers (signed with Vancouver) and Ben Chiarot (signed with Montreal).
"I could go up and down the list of guys who have gone over the last few years," Copp said.