After the Winnipeg Jets were eliminated from the postseason, Pierre LeBrun first reported that Patrik Laine’s name had come up in trade rumors. I for one didn’t take these rumors very seriously.
Like most hockey fans who follow the Jets, I knew the team had some desperate bad luck and needed help on their defense and that the team needed another good center. But trade Laine? Things aren’t that bad. (from “LeBrun rumblings: Laine trade talk, Canadiens moves, the goalie market and more, Pierre LeBrun, The Athletic, 02/09/20).
It occurred to me that Laine would bring back a good return in trade; but, it never occurred to me that Winnipeg would ever trade him. After all, he’s a 6-foot-5, 205-pound power forward from Finland who just finished his fourth NHL season and has already scored 138 goals – almost 35 per season, including this season’s suspension.
In addition, Laine’s a huge talent. That he’s scored 36, 44, 30, and 28 goals at only 22 years of age in those four seasons suggests that he’s a legitimate offensive weapon. Given that success, he seemed like a lock with the team until he became a UFA some seasons down the road.
Even LeBrun Seemed Skeptical
Even LeBrun at the time had to have thought the odds were minimal. He started his article with these words:
“Imagine a world in which Patrik Laine gets traded? The mere mention of Laine as trade bait from colleague Frank Seravalli this week certainly had Twitter buzzing. Do I think it’s a strong possibility the 22-year-old star winger gets dealt? No.”
That seems pretty clear. But, doing his duty to spur along rumors, LeBrun mentioned that the Carolina Hurricanes (and others) would be interested in Laine if the Jets actually started to field offers.
Darren Dreger Gets into the Act
Just over a week ago on Insider Trading, Darren Dreger reported that the Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff was listening to offers for Laine. Dreger was a bit more certain than LeBrun and suggested that Winnipeg was serious in its attempt to trade Laine; however, he noted that other teams hadn’t been much interest.
At that time, Dreger speculated that other general managers were likely concerned about their own team’s economic health with even the start of the 2020-21 season unknown. Another fly in the ointment was that Laine could become a restricted free agent after the 2020-21 season and he had arbitration rights. That he’d be coming off a two-year, $13.5 million contract with said arbitration rights might translate into a big payday.
Then, on Sept. 25, newspapers from Columbus picked up the news that LeBrun had reported that the Blue Jackets might be interested in trading for Laine. Logically, that would make sense, the Blue Jackets are rich on defense and weak on offense. A player such as Laine would immediately become a star in the Ohio capital.
If the Blue Jackets wanted to get into the game, the article noted, they would have to give up plenty to get Laine, who was drafted second overall during the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.
By the End of September, No Specific Reason Had Emerged
In an article on Sept. 27, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman suggested: “I don’t think Patrik Laine has asked for a trade or anything like that but I think they can kind of see where this is potentially going in the future. I just think everybody’s looking at the situation and saying ‘what if our way to solve the problem is, can we use Patrik Laine to find No. 2 center or a right-hand shot defenseman?”
Then, three days later on Sept. 30, in a 31 Points article, Friedman reported that Laine wanted the Jets to guarantee he’d always skate on the same line as Mark Scheifele. In response, the team didn’t seem willing to make that guarantee.
At this point, I’m absolutely speculating and trying to add little pieces from my own reading to solve this problem. I cannot know for certain, but I wonder if there’s a bit of a power play involved between team and player (and not the kind on the ice). Is Laine trying to set the conditions of his employment and the trade rumors are occurring as a result of a tug-of-war between player and team over who gets to make the rules?
And, because the team has the “hammer” (the ability to trade the player), as good a player as the young Finn might be, at 22 years of age the team might be telling the player an emphatic “No” by trying to move him.
If that’s the case, and again I admit I am speculating between the lines, the team might believe moving Laine a year before his current contract expires and he becomes an RFA might simply help them escape the same kind of protracted negotiations with Laine that the Toronto Maple Leafs undertook with William Nylander two years ago and Mitch Marner last offseason.
Are the trade rumors occurring because the Jets want to move Laine before they have to face further tough negotiations with the team’s star winger again.
Where Does A Laine Trade Now Stand?
In the Sept. 30 article, Friedman wrote that there was “a legit chance (a Laine trade) happens” this fall. He noted that Columbus, Carolina, the Los Angeles Kings, and the Philadelphia Flyers had all been rumored as possible places Laine might go if the Jets moved him.
What did the Jets have to say about these speculations? Just two days ago, Tim Campbell of NHL.com reported again that Cheveldayoff admitted Laine could be traded. When asked why, the Jets general manager noted that the team was “looking at all our options, including potentially trading different players.”
What Cheveldayoff said was consistent with the rumors Dreger and LeBrun had shared when they reported Laine trade rumors.
Perhaps this is all that is true. However, we’ll likely never know because no team would admit that a player was difficult to work with before trying to trade him. That news isn’t something that would endear any player to a new team.
Perhaps there’s more to what’s happening than what we’re hearing; perhaps not. I’m just throwing it out there.
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