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Rumor: Byfuglien to hit the trade market

Now here's one we haven't heard before.

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The trade market is starting to open - as January rolls on, teams are finally rounding into a position where they know where they stand going into the trade deadline.

Who's a buyer, and who's a seller? Not every team knows that just yet - but more and more know as the weeks pass by. A team like the Pittsburgh Penguins are still in the picture and Jim Rutherford is doing what he can to keep them afloat.

The New York Islanders are in a precarious situation because they've started to slip down the standings due to poor goaltending and defense - it has a major impact on John Tavares' contract situation. Will they sell him off as a rental by February if they slip further? It's inching towards that conclusion.

Anyway - the focus of this post is on the Winnipeg Jets. We all saw this coming - with the rise of Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, Jacob Trouba, Nikolaj Ehlers, Connor Hellebuyck, and the recent drafting of Patrik Laine - we all knew they had the pieces to become a contender. It was just a matter of time.

They now sit 3rd in the NHL, and figure to be a contender this year.

General manager Kevin Cheveldayoff is in a position of buying, that much is clear - and to buy, he may in fact sell one of his star defensemen. Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman brought up the idea on the debut edition of the 31 Thoughts Podcast.

"A guy I wonder about is Dustin Byfuglien," Friedman began. "They made a big commitment to him. Trouba loves playing that right side, and when Byfuglien comes back, he's not there much... I just wonder."

"They've been able to win without him," co-host Jeff Marek added.

The conversation veered into the fact that Trouba and Laine are due for substantial raises, and Byfuglien occupies $7.6 million in cap space for 3 more seasons beyond 2017-18. As Marek mentioned, they proved themselves capable of winning without him in the lineup this season, proving that while he is valuable as a Winnipeg Jet, he's also expendable. 

It's a unique situation where a contending team may trade away one of its star players before the playoffs, but if done correctly, the payoff could be huge.

RUMORS AROUND THE LEAGUE

There are other discussions being had around the NHL.

The San Jose Sharks are reportedly shopping for a winger to add to their lineup.

New York Rangers forward Michael Grabner is set to become an unrestricted free agent following this season, but the team isn't putting a firm deadline on when they have to get him under a new contract. He has 18 goals in 41 games this season.

The Vegas Golden Knights' impressive season has changed George McPhee's plans going into the trade deadline as well as the off-season. It's expected now that he will sign forward James Neal to a contract extension rather than trade him for futures. He has 17 goals and 28 points in 40 games this year.