This article is part of our From the Press Box series.
Two big names in Winnipeg, Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd, have seen their names in the news a lot in advance of the Feb. 29 trade deadline because they are – or were – both playing out the final year of big-dollar contracts.
Byfuglien was set up to be highly coveted at the deadline as an offensive-minded defenseman who logs lots of ice time and can play the game any way you want with his rare combination of size and skill. He has also shown the ability to play on a forward line if necessary, and that added flexibility for such a high-end talent makes him an even more valuable commodity.
Of course, Ladd has also been a central figure in the Winnipeg dressing room as the captain and a productive player in his own right. He has been a consistent scorer, a key cog on the power play and a conscientious checker during his entire career. Oddly, though, Ladd has been less productive and much less visible this season, ceding some of the leadership role to others, including Byfuglien.
I originally believed Byfuglien was more likely to be traded until he admitted that he really enjoys living and playing in Winnipeg. It's not far from his Minnesota origins, which may have been a factor in his declaration, but the fact that he made those feelings so public during the course of contract negotiations was surprising.
Earlier this week, Byfuglien backed up his public admission for real, as he