Could Byfuglien back on blueline be bad news for Kulda?

One of the more interesting things that came from Chris Vivlamore’s recent chat with Rick Dudley was the suggestion that Dustin Byfuglien could wind up playing defense.

“It’s a position that he likes to play”, Dudley told Vivlamore. “It’s a position that I thought he was well on his way to being a top, top defenseman in Chicago”.

Goalies around the NHL might not be upset with Dustin Byfuglien moving to defense. As Vancouver's Roberto Luongo can attest, his large frame can be quite a problem (AP photo)

Roberto Luongo and other goalies around the NHL certainly wouldn't mind seeing the large frame of Dustin Byfuglien moving to defense (AP photo)

Continuing the Thrashers GM added, “We moved him to forward because we had no size up front. Obviously, he proved to be a very effective forward but that doesn’t mean he’s not an effective defenseman. Ultimately, if [coach] Craig [Ramsay] says he doesn’t want to play him at defense, it’s unlikely he’ll play on defense. Truthfully, I want to see [him switch]. He can score. He can score 15 goals as a defenseman. He’s got one of the hardest shots in the game”.

The 6’-4” 257 lb Byfuglien was the Blackhawks 245th pick back in the 2003 draft.

Now I must confess, the discussion of such a move is puzzling given the fact that Byfuglien’s size and abilities are just what this team needs in front of opposing goalies. And, if he does take up a spot on the defensive corps that means another player will be denied one. That person most likely would be Arturs Kulda, whom I am really looking forward to seeing on the team this season.

So if Duds gets his wish, the Thrashers D-men would consist of Hainsey, Enstrom, Oduya, Bogosian, Sopel and Buff in back with Valabik left to sample the press box buffet. This is barring any further trades/signings, of course.

What are your thoughts on moving Byfuglien to defense?

  • All for it. They need help back there (4%, 6 Votes)
  • Not a fan. We need that size up front (72%, 96 Votes)
  • Wait...the Thrashers have a forward that knows how to play defense? (24%, 32 Votes)

Total Voters: 134

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But then let’s also consider the forward lines. The way I see things, Antropov, Peverley, Kane, Little and Bergfors, (when signed), make up five of your top-six forwards. Boulton and Thorburn are fourth liners, possibly centered by Patrice Cormier, and Slater could skate between Eager and Ladd for line three. Then add in, say, Rissmiller as a healthy scratch. But there’s still that one open RW spot on the first or second line to round out the lineup.

This is where Spencer Machacek could possibly find his opening to crack the roster. Dudley has made it clear he wants to make sure there are some spots available for prospects to compete for. So if Buff finds his way onto the defensive corps then that creates an opening for Machacek to fill.

Again, this assumes a trade or signing isn’t in the offing.

Speaking of which, keep in mind we’ve heard rumblings that Dudley and Co. have shown some interest in forward Lee Stempniak. If he were to be brought in, one would think he’s got the inside track to that final top-six spot with Buff on defense.

And that would probably mean Spencer back in Chicago with Arturs.

156 comments Add your comment

HookyBob

August 26th, 2010
11:57 pm

Methinks this might be just a bit of the annual pre-season marketing hype.

lemon drop the gloves

August 27th, 2010
12:25 am

as i have said before, buff can’t skate backwards and is not the d-man to get thrashers to the playoffs. ok if he score 15 – he will give up 25. he is a helluva a forward with a great reach, shot, and forechecking abilities. this is utter bull to talk of him on defence when he is such a force on the offensive end. artie and spencer have worked their tails off in chicago and have nothing left to prove in the ahl. they deserve the opportunity now. it is time for the thrash to go with the youth that has earned the right to play in the show. two solid years for each of these guys and their futures depend on big buff playing d. give me a break.

Wayne stuck in AL

August 27th, 2010
12:54 am

Sorry, Duds, I’m against it. We need that muscle on the top 2 lines…Besides, we know you’re looking to get rid of Bergfors, where are the goals coming from?

Oh, I get it now, Atlanta Spirit has told you to put out a defense-first team; so that way, they won’t ask for big numbers come salary time…very sneaky!

cousin Eddie

August 27th, 2010
12:57 am

I agree with lemon drop.

Brendan

August 27th, 2010
1:42 am

I’d rather see Kulda here. Or whomever earns that 6th and 7th d-man slot. What an utter waste to put Byfuglien there. Big Buff will score 20 goals as a forward. No doubt about it. To expect him to pot 15 as a blueliner … is asking a lot. And, it’s hurting the overall benefit to the team to play him on defense. I have no problem with Byfuglien playing defense, if our blueliners suffer some injuries. But if we’re healthy, this move doesn’t make sense.

Look, I’m as frustrated as anyone that Don Waddell is still here, after having done nothing to justify his paycheck, after a decade’s worth of seasons. But we can’t just sit here and say any good move is Dudley’s move and any stupid idea must be Waddell’s. Dudley is going to make both good and bad moves. And even Waddell sometimes got various moves correctly. All I can do … is pray that things work out.

Heck, I know that in the big scheme of things, this is Year 4 of a 4 year building project. I get it. And I’m not a fan that demands the Stanley Cup every year, or even playoffs every year. All I ask … all I’ve EVER ASKED … is that our franchise conduct itself with an HONEST ATTEMPT to do the best it can, given its set of circumstance. I don’t believe that’s happened to the extent that it should. But “it is what it is.” And with that in mind, our team plucked a fine asset in Byfuglien. The very least we can do … is utilize it properly. Gracious. I’m trying to give Dudley every confidence. But if Byfuglien plays defense this season, we’d better get the desired result of that. I’m a huge proponent of ‘accountability.’ I always have been. Dudley said, when he got the job, “I like to think that I can do this job as well, if not better, than anybody.” Loved the swagger. Prove it! If this is Dudley’s idea of what will work, and it does, I’ll be back to congratulate him … for doing the job of GM better than anyone else can. I promise.

Wayne stuck in AL

August 27th, 2010
1:55 am

The more Dudley opens his mouth, the more I’m beginning to dislike/distrust him.

Thrashers27

August 27th, 2010
2:13 am

A player that I keep forgettign about is Pettersson. If he is as advertised, he may contend for a RW spot.

Cornbread

August 27th, 2010
3:08 am

Dudley’s floating a trial baloon or throwing it out there to see if anything sticks.

World Be Free

August 27th, 2010
5:56 am

Dudley and Ramsay have successfully emassed a combined 80 years experience in pro hockey. I am not for the idea just yet, but let the guys discuss options and be happy they are sharing them with us. All we are asking for is this team to win on a consistent basis, how they do it is up to the.

Remember folks, this team STILL does not have a physical precense on the blueline. So if it happens, it is not all bad. I still say Buff will be a forward for this team at some point this season, I hope it is from day one.

Budder

August 27th, 2010
6:09 am

Over on C-Viv’s Blog it was put forth that Buff might be a D-Man 5-on-5, but on the PP, drop him to the front of the net. I agree with WBF about needing a stopper at the blueline, and while some have derided his backwards skating ability, when it comes to breaking out Buff would look like Big Daddy Don Garlits coming out of the chute (read PDQ!).

The prospect of Bogo and Tobe firing low lasers from the point, with the Manster harassing the goalie down low sounds pretty sweet. Let’s get it started!

Smitty

August 27th, 2010
6:41 am

I do not think there are too many on this blog that have more knowledge of hockey personnel than Dudley. Duds has his reasons for making this statement. Maybe he is trying to stir the pot and create some excitement.

Rawhide, How many times in past summers have there been over 200 responses to your blogs? All I know there has been a lot more excitement regarding the Thrashers this past summer than in the past. I think it is way too early to start questioning Dudley given the personnel moves he has made.

I am thinking Dudley is letting everyone on the Thrashers know that not every position is set including the top 6 defensemen. Dudley has said Kulda should be playing in ATL this year. If he says Buff might play defense that means there are 8 or 9 guys competing for 6 spots. That should be interesting. And if Buff does indeed play on defense that opens up another forward spot. A message to the prospects that if they work hard enough they could earn a spot or he could be setting up a trade for that 20 goal scorer that some feel that we need.

As I said, I think he is just stirring the pot.

VAThrasher

August 27th, 2010
6:43 am

Agree, we need to trust the braintrust – it’s hard for us though. Also agree it could just be preseason hype posturing. Lastly, if left to me, I’d also put him at forward as we have enough NHL/high level AHL defensemen in camp to field almost 2 entire teams: 1bogo 2enstrom 3oduya 4hainsey 5sopel 6valabik 7kulda 8meyer 9postma 10mclaren.

kracker

August 27th, 2010
7:20 am

All I am sure of is there are five more dog days of August. Camp…we need camp to start soon. I agree w/ the onlookers that there is probably another move(s) coming.

CHIEF OF SMOKE

August 27th, 2010
7:26 am

I like the Buff move to defense, if we sign Stempniak.

Nate

August 27th, 2010
8:01 am

I reiterate…moving Byfuglien to defense (in any situation) wastes the valuable assets we traded to Chicago to obtain him. He’s not a particularly good skater which is exactly what you HAVE to be in order to be an effective defenseman. I pray this doesn’t come true. Our G/A will again be near the bottom of the league which this particular set of Thrashers can’t afford with the lack of reliable goal scoring.

Dwayne

August 27th, 2010
8:10 am

Could not afford Doris and Buff on D. Two bad skaters.

kracker

August 27th, 2010
8:13 am

Unsigned RFAs — Ducks winger Bobby Ryan, Rangers defenseman Marc Staal, Canadiens goalie Carey Price, Oilers forwards Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano, Thrashers forward Niclas Bergfors, Avalanche forwards Chris Stewart and Peter Mueller and Stars forward James Neal still haven’t signed new contracts.

It ain’t just us….

GaVaHokie

August 27th, 2010
8:26 am

I could understand if we didn’t have suitable options at Defense, but we do… Kulda and Valabik can fill those spots easily.

Now, if you want to use Buff as a hybrid, I’m fine with that.

For instance, playing Buff on D and have him sneak up to the front of the net and have Thorburn (for example) drop back to cover the D spot.

Just saying, just because he’s on D, doesn’t mean there isn’t a way to get him in front of the net.

GaVaHokie

August 27th, 2010
8:30 am

It could be a case where Dudley wants to give Cormier, Mahachek and Burmistrov a solid chance to play to start the season. Keep Buff back at Defense.

If those guys can’t hold a spot, send them to minors/juniors and move Buff back to forward and then give Kulda, Meyers or Postma a shot at the roster.

So… translation… Dudley seems to want to give the forward prospects more of an initial chance than the defensive prospects.

World Be Free

August 27th, 2010
8:31 am

I think Budder made some great points. Let’s just wait till camp and see what happens. If Dudley, Ramsay and Torch think something is a good idea and they can make work then I am all for it.

TableHockey

August 27th, 2010
8:54 am

Hockey 101 question here – can one of you guys enlighten me on RFA rules? If we don’t come to terms with Bergfors how does that impact him skating for us in 2010-2011?

kracker

August 27th, 2010
9:08 am

In order for Bergfors to play for the Thrashers this season, he must sign a contract. Bergfors can hold out indefinitely and sit at home or try to play in Europe or Russia. Or he could receive a contract offer from another team that the Thrashers would then have to match if they want to keep him for the terms of that offer. As an RFA I do not think the Thrashers can trade him as he is not under contract with the Thrashers at this time.

TableHockey

August 27th, 2010
9:10 am

Thanks Kracker!

Sara

August 27th, 2010
9:13 am

TableHockey – no contract, no play. Same thing we went through with Kovy during his last contract negotiations as an RFA. He held out until he got the deal he wanted, missed I think 2 or 3 games to start that season.

Sara

August 27th, 2010
9:14 am

Kracker – Dudley could trade his rights to another team. Remember Ladd was an RFA without a contract we we traded for him.

Rhythmpenguin

August 27th, 2010
9:16 am

GaVaHokie, Great thoughts! Just to add to them, Duds might also be trying to motivate the prospects (Cormier, Burmistrov, Kulda, etc.) and/or some of the other guys trying to make the team.

Random thought: More fans might come out to see a team that frequently hits big, even if they are not the best at wining.

Red Light

August 27th, 2010
9:17 am

Table Hockey: It’s a great question and I think the CBA has some ambiguity as it concerns RFAs. To the best of my knowledge, here’s the deal.

Any Group 2 player is free to negotiate and sign an Standard Player Contract with any club, and any club shall be completely free to negotiate and sign a SPC with any such player, subject to the provisions set forth in this section.

If the player elects arbitration, or if the team elects arbitration, the player can’t negotiate freely. If the player was offered a qualifying offer, and Bergfors was, the offer automatically expires at 5 pm on July 15, but the club can elect to extend and put forth an offer acceptance date

Red Light

August 27th, 2010
9:18 am

Ooops

…determined in its sole discretion.

Red Light

August 27th, 2010
9:20 am

A Club which makes this qualifying offer will have the exclusive right to negotiate with the player.

Brendan

August 27th, 2010
9:22 am

TableHockey, if the RFA does not come to terms with the team for which he is under contract, he becomes ineligible for the NHL season after December 1, 2010. Likewise, he becomes “ineligible” for the NHL season if his skate touches European ice, while getting paid for it. The team holding the RFA rights has the power. All the player can do … is refuse to sign, and play elsewhere, like European leagues. With the NBA Hawks, Josh Childress opted to go play in Greece for 3 years instead of re-signing with the Atlanta Hawks. The rights holding NHL team can trade the player’s rights, if they choose. Had the Thrashers not made Bergfors a qualifying offer, things would different. But they did, as far as I know. And neither side elected for arbitration. I think someone once said that Bergsfors wasn’t eligible for arbitration, either due to age or draft position. I cannot recall at this precise moment. Basically, folks, the light will illuminate that Bergsfors, if he wishes to play in the NHL, will have to sign his qualifying offer, for a 10-percent raise over last season.

Okay, someone just screamed, “RFA offersheet!” Well, that’s another possibility. Nothing prevents Bergfors from signing an RFA offersheet from another team. However, to the best of my knowledge, no such offersheet has materialized. But per RFA rules, Atlanta would have the right to match any offersheet that might come Bergfors’ way. One last time, if Bergsfors doesn’t want to be here, which isn’t a certainty, then Atlanta should consider trading him. I remain confident that Dudley could find suitable replacement for Bergfors. I really, really don’t like the idea of TRAPPING a player here, against his will. Nobody, I don’t care WHO you are, does their BEST WORK while demoralized. If Bergfors finds himself demoralized, we won’t like the results anyway. Might as well trade him. I have nothing against Bergfors. They guy came here and played capably for us. That’s all we can ask of him.

kracker

August 27th, 2010
9:23 am

You’re welcome. I think that is the situation. I’m sure the posters will add more if there are other options for either party.

You probably know this but to keep the conversation going: If Bergfors does receive a contract offer from another team, the Thrashers would receive compensation in future draft picks. The larger the contract Bergfors is offered, the more and better draft picks the other team would have to give to the Thrashers. Because the compensation scale in draft picks is regarded as rather high, not many GMs elect to raid another teams player.

I get the impression that Dudley would not be inclined to overpay for an RFA by matching an offer, so he might well decide to take the draft picks.

Red Light

August 27th, 2010
9:25 am

In Article 11, Section 11.4 on Rules and Procedures Governing SPC’s, it says the following…

SPC for a Group 2 Free Agent will be rejected and will be null and void ab inition (ie. the Players Free Agency and contractual status shall revert to the status he held prior to signing his SPC), if it is not signed and filed with Central Registry by 5 pm on Dec. 1 in the then current NHL season.

Brendan

August 27th, 2010
9:28 am

Sorry, I misspoke. Bergfors is NOT under contract, but Atlanta does hold his rights, as Sara posted above. Any team that holds a player’s rights can trade them. Even for something as little or inconsequential as “Future Considerations.” Whatever the heck that means.

One of the best deals the Thrashers ever made was trading the RIGHTS to Ruslan Zainullin to Calgary, in exchange for center Marc Savard. Yes, that Marc Savard. Zainullin, to the best of my knowledge, has never set foot in the NHL.

kracker

August 27th, 2010
9:29 am

My eyes glaze over and begin rolling up in my head when portions of the CBA are posted….

Brendan

August 27th, 2010
9:35 am

TableHockey, I think Kracker is right. Dudley is NOT apt to overpay for a player by matching. I think he’d opt for the draft picks. Of course, Dudley can then use those very draft picks to trade with NJ for Travis Zajack, if the Devils re-sign Kovy, and are forced to move players.

Zombie Steve

August 27th, 2010
9:39 am

No doubt, rythempenguin. I always like watching Flyers games for that reason; they smack the crap out of other teams.

kracker

August 27th, 2010
9:42 am

New C Viv blog — ajcthrashers New Thrashers blog posted. Nik Antropov progressing after offseason hip surgery. http://bit.ly/9s2KvG

Brendan

August 27th, 2010
9:45 am

Red Light, or whomever, what’s the very latest draft pick compensation for RFAs? I can’t remember how it breaks down. It used to be that for a $1 million or less, you got like a 3rd round pick. And $2.5 million got you a 1st and a 3rd. And if the contract was over $5 million-a-year, you got 4 first round draft picks. I know, that in theory, that sounds ridiculous. Who, in their right mind, would cough up 4 first round picks! But if you’re a contender, those are ‘throw-away’ picks at #28, #29, #30 … that aren’t likely to materialize into anything anyway. So, why not do it?, if you really think the rights holding team won’t match it. Now, that wouldn’t apply to Bergsfors, who is nowhere near a $5 million-a-year type player. But I’m kinda thinking we’d get a 1st and 3rd, maybe … maybe a 2nd rounder, if the offer-making team lost their head about Bergfors’ salary.

Brendan

August 27th, 2010
9:47 am

Trixie, my post about RFA compensation is in the SPAM filters. Basically, I ask the bloggers if they know what the current rate of RFA compensation is, for salary tendered, to the rights holding team.

Rhythmpenguin

August 27th, 2010
9:48 am

Since we now have Buff (and they still have Pronger) the Thrashers Flyers rivalry is going to be even better! =)

Smoothie

August 27th, 2010
9:48 am

Some really good stuff here from many of our regulars, but I think any talk of Bergy not wanting to be here is waaay premature. We have not heard anything from him nor his agent about being unsatisfied w/ ATL.

He knows that he is going to be a key, integral piece going forward and his agent is simply doing his “due diligence” in a fickle marketplace in which several good young RFAs have yet to sign the dotted line.

I think worse case scenario is that he ends up signing a 2-yr deal rather than 3 if he can’t get the $ he wants which is probably in the realm of $2.5 to $3 M per annum. Dudley is a stubborn SOB and will not overpay a young, unproven player.

His 2 year deal will likely be for $2.25 to $2.5M. This may just take a little while longer since he is a traded asset and doesn’t feel the same loyalty he would to New Jersey since they drafted him. He has a little more leverag than Duds would like to admit and is simply trying to use it.

No reason to start worrying, yet. Give it till Labor Day and then hit the panic button.

Sara

August 27th, 2010
9:49 am

Out of curiosity, does anyone know who Bergfors’ agent is?

JPinChi

August 27th, 2010
9:54 am

@GaVaHokie: You like the idea about having a defenseman crash the net while having a forward drop back to cover D? Isn’t that what the last coach tried to do, but none of the players adopted this method?

Red Light

August 27th, 2010
9:54 am

rogan

August 27th, 2010
9:56 am

dudley is f.ck.ng lyar! :@ 05.04.10. in thrashers site’s article “Rick Dudley Q&A- Part 2″ he said:
“Kulda can play in the National Hockey League now(..). We have to give Kulda a chance to do that because he can”.

and now we listen, that arturs must return to chicago wolwes.
wtf?!! :@

Rawhide

August 27th, 2010
9:58 am

Rawhide, How many times in past summers have there been over 200 responses to your blogs? All I know there has been a lot more excitement regarding the Thrashers this past summer than in the past.

Smitty – It’s happen a number of times in the past, but last summer I may have only posted 2 or 3 times a week during late July and August. But to answer your question in better perspective, consider that last offseason an average of 376 comments were posted per week. This offseason it’s been right at 510….645 since 7/1. Lot’s of new people posting too, which is a nice thing to see.

Plus the blog’s page view numbers have been at their highest levels ever. I got a call from my online editor a couple weeks back asking just what the heck is going on with the team to cause such numbers in the dead of summer?

There is indeed a buzz around these parts that hasn’t been present since … oh…coming out of the lockout. Not just here and on C-Viv’s blogs, but all over the Thrasherville Blogosphere. From what I understand, ticket sales are up over last year too…so that’s a good thing.

Now, all the team has to do is backup the hype.

Red Light

August 27th, 2010
10:10 am

The same JP Barry who represents Heatley, Malkin, Crosby, P. Kane, E. Johnson, Doan, Streit, the Sedins, Alfredsson, Briere and Toews. CAA has an office in Stockholm!

Rawhide

August 27th, 2010
10:16 am

Speaking of ticket sales, this from KuklasKorner:

“Blackhawks regular season home opener against Wings- Tickets ranging from $122 for standing room to $900. Raise the banner”

Wow…

Smoothie

August 27th, 2010
10:20 am

R/L – phew! Thought you typed “Kane, E.” but I looked at that wrong. So glad its P. Kane and E. Johnson…feel better now. Not that I think we’re in for a holdout, but I don’t like seeing Bergy’s agent the same as the rep for Heatley.

Jim Friendly

August 27th, 2010
10:22 am

Gee, no playoffs again this coming season, sour, sour vibe and nothing to help score goals. Still a ship sinking to the bottom, just has not hit bottom yet. Season opener, Washington 7 Atlanta 1. Sorry