Big deal for Buff: Thrashers sign Byfuglien to US$26-million, 5-year deal

ATLANTA – The Atlanta Thrashers locked up defenceman Dustin Byfuglien to a long-term contract Tuesday.

The US$26-million extension runs through the 2015-’16 season.

“Dustin has emerged into an elite player this season and been invaluable as a leader both on and off the ice,” Thrashers general manager Rick Dudley said in a release. “It was a priority to sign him and we’re looking forward to witnessing his all-star calibre play for many years to come.”

Byfuglien, 25, leads the team with 43 points (17 goals, 26 assists) this season.

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He has 152 points (72-80) in 318 career games with the Thrashers and Chicago Blackhawks. Byfuglien has 25 points (14-11) in 39 career playoff games.

He will receive $4.25 million for the next two seasons, $5.75 million in 2013-’14 and 2014-’15, and $6 million in 2015-’16.

The six-foot-five, 265-pound native of Minneapolis, Minn., won a Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks last spring. He was traded to the Thrashers in the off-season.