Trade speculation regarding Winnipeg Jets forward Patrik Laine does not seem to be going away.
When we last checked in with this situation we looked at how a potential trade could easily create more problems for the Jets than it solves. Sure, they might be able to get a couple of pieces back in return to help fix their depth at center and on defense. But they would also create a new hole — one that is far more difficult to fill — by trading away an elite goal-scorer that still has yet to hit his peak years in the NHL.
With the NHL draft completed and most of the prominent free agents signed, the remainder of the offseason is going to focus on potential trades. And of all the big-name players that could theoretically be had in a trade, Laine still seems to be the most likely to move given the situation unfolding between him and the team.
What exactly is that situation?
TSN’s Pierre LeBrun dove into it a little bit on the most recent Insider Trading and addressed some “scuttlebutt” that Laine may not report to training camp if he is not traded. LeBrun said Laine’s agents denied that rumor, but also added this…
I reached out to his representation agents, Andy Scott and Mike Liut, to get some clarity and they absolutely deny that. That Laine has not asked for a trade, he’s not threatening to not be a camp if he’s not dealt.
Having said that, his agents also made clear that it’s fair to say that given that Laine knows his name has been in trade discussions, as we’ve talked about here. And given that his usage in the lineup the last couple of years has been a constant topic of conversation, the fact that he doesn’t get consistent first-line minutes. Hs agents Mike Liut and Andy Scott do confirm that it probably would be mutually beneficial to both the player and to the team he is traded and that there is clear communication between them and Kevin Cheveldayoff, the GM of the Winnipeg Jets, about this.
The key point there is at the end, where Laine’s agents say it might be “beneficial” to both sides for a trade to happen.
LeBrun went on to say that Cheveldayoff is not going to trade Laine just for the sake of trading him. Nor should he.
Still, Laine’s contract expires after this upcoming season — he will again be a restricted free agent — and the Jets are eventually going to have to make a commitment with him one way or the other. Either sign him to a long-term contract and play him like the first-line winger he is, or just get it over with and send him somewhere else.
It would still probably be in the Jets’ best interests to find a way to mend this relationship. You do not get players with Laine’s skillset very often, and you don’t get them for very long when you do. You don’t want to waste that time or send the player away before it is absolutely necessary. You are not likely to win the trade, and there is not another Patrik Laine just sitting out there waiting for you to pick them up.
It is clear that coach Paul Maurice does not always trust Laine to be a top-line winger or a focal point of the team’s power play unit. That remains odd odd given Laine’s skillset and production and seems to have helped cause a divide between the two sides.
Forcing Laine into a situation where his representation deems it “beneficial” for a trade to happen, and then following through with that, would essentially be choosing the coach and his usage over the star player and his skill.
That would be a very shortsighted move with potentially disastrous long-term ramifications.
No matter what you think of Maurice as a coach, it is very likely that at some point over the next couple of years he will no longer be the Jets’ head coach. That is just the way the business of hockey works. He has already been there for seven seasons, and unless there is some kind of dramatic turnaround in the team’s on-ice results, things are eventually going to reach a breaking point and a change will be made. Coaches are hired to eventually be replaced. It is not a matter of if, but when. He has already outlasted what most coaches get with a single team without winning a Stanley Cup.
Just because the current coach does not fully trust Laine to play a bigger role does not mean the next coach will share that opinion. If you make that trade now, then it simply means that next coach won’t have an in-his-prime goal-scorer to potentially utilize.
That would be helping to set the next coach up for failure before they even start.
So yes, a trade might be more beneficial to Laine at this point given the current situation.
It is not more beneficial for the Jets. Not today. Not tomorrow.