Patrik Laine was traded from the Winnipeg Jets to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Pierre-Luc Dubois on January 23, 2021. Laine, 23 will become a restricted free agent at season’s end. He signed a two-year $13.5 million deal in September of 2019 with the Jets. Things have not gone well for Laine while in Columbus. He hasn’t exactly gotten along well with head coach John Tortorella. Now, that could be resolved with the departure of Tortorella. If the Blue Jackets don’t give Laine a qualifying offer, then he becomes an unrestricted free agent free to sign with any team he sees fit.
It’s uncertain if, or more importantly, why the Blue Jackets would just give up on Laine particularly when they paid a huge price of trading Dubois in exchange for Laine’s services. We don’t know how damaged Laine’s relationship is with the Blue Jackets front office, but he may be traded or may not.
Adding Patrik Laine Would Put the Arizona Coyotes on the Map
This franchise desperately needs a true star quality player to get them into playoff competition once again. Sure, they technically made the playoffs last season, but we know that was due to a pandemic-caused 24-team playoff qualifying rule. They were not headed to the playoffs had the season continued. This season was much of the same with the team merely flirting with a playoff run. Losing 12 of 17 games down the stretch did them in. The roster needs to be blown up and players who can perform, while staying healthy, would be a huge improvement. The last two seasons have seen their star goalie Darcy Kuemper go down with an extended injury, causing stress on the defence.
Then, backup goalie Antti Raanta has had an innumerable amount of absences due to injury. With that, the third line goalie Adin Hill stepped in to fill the gap and did an admirable job. The Coyotes’ lack of defence this season was noticeable, but their ineptitude to score was a death wish to make the playoffs. Put simply, they obviously need a proven scorer like Laine to infuse some goal-scoring into the lineup. While he has had an off-year this season scoring only 12 goals and 12 assists in 46 games, he has tallied 0.77 points a game in his five-year NHL career. That would be better than any fifth-year player on the Arizona roster currently.
What Happened in Winnipeg
Laine, who was the second overall pick in 2016, wanted to be traded from Winnipeg because he wanted to be a first-line forward. That would not be a problem if he were part of the Coyotes’ organization. While he is not that long pursued first-line centre the team covets, he can flat out score. He has 150 goals and 121 assists in 351 career games. He also has 56 power-play tallies and 35 assists. Adding Patrik Laine to the weak Coyotes’ power play would definitely augment the team’s offence.
How Do the Coyotes Get Laine?
It would seem if the Blue Jackets want to unload him, they would want to get something in return. Don’t forget they gave up Dubois to get Laine. If a trade were in order, it should definitely be investigated by new general manager Bill Armstrong. This team has got to improve and getting a player of Laine’s capabilities would be ideal. The team will have approximately $31 million in cap space next season.
Now that the Arizona club has parted ways with Rick Tocchet, it may be time to not only find a new head coach, but a premier player to take the team out of the doldrums. Patrik Laine can do that. And as far as getting him a good centre to get him the puck, don’t forget that Clayton Keller is a centre who was converted to the wing. There’s no reason to not expect he could go back to that position, which he is better fitted to fill. He has averaged 0.43 assists a game in his career.
Patrik Laine Still Needs a Centre If He Stays in Columbus
There has been some indication that Laine may stay in Columbus especially since John Tortorella is gone now as their head coach. Still, if that happens Laine will need that key centre to dish the puck to him so he can do his scoring thing. It seems that if Laine doesn’t get his way, there tends to be some discord between him and the team.
Just as when the Coyotes acquired a star player in Taylor Hall, the team needs that star quality to attract fans and free agents to come to the desert to play. Hiring a good quality head coach may be Armstrong’s priority especially with the draft coming up. Yet, the team’s poor showing on the offensive side of the puck must be addressed.
Could Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Be Another Choice?
Exploring all the forward options can’t hurt. RNH is a versatile forward who can play both wing or centre and can be another option. He can play on the power play and kill penalties, so there’s that.
Whether the Edmonton Oilers will be able to afford to re-sign him is another question. They, like the Coyotes, have like 12 free agents to resign. Without signing them they would have about $24 million in cap space. RNH is earning $6 million but has had a down year with 33 points in 49 games.
With three free agents taking up almost half the cap space for Edmonton, some decisions will need to be made. Presently, Tyson Barrie ($3.75M), Adam Larsson ($4.16M), and Alex Chiasson ($2.15M) have contracts expiring. Will that mean they may need to trade or allow Barrie to walk? We’ll see.
In the End
The Coyotes need a scorer, and the sooner the better. Bill Armstrong has his work cut out for him to get the team more competitive and consistent going forward. Since he doesn’t have a first-round pick this year, adding either Laine or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would help tremendously.
Let’s see how this plays out.