A potential trade of Patrik Laine has been one of the most talked about rumors in the hockey world during this unique offseason.
They’re seemingly rumors that won’t be going away anytime soon.
TSN’s Pierre LeBrun discussed the situation a bit
in his most recent Insider Trading piece.
LeBrun says he hears that there is a chance Laine may not show up to training camp whenever that begins, and further dives into the conversation he had with Laine’s agents.
“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,” LeBrun said.
“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, his agents Mike Liut and Andy Scott do confirm that it probably would be mutually beneficial to both the player and to the team if Patrik Laine is traded and that there is clear communication between them and Kevin Cheveldayoff, the GM of the Winnipeg Jets, about this.”
Two things catch my eye from what LeBrun had to say.
Laine’s first-line usage has been a hot topic in Winnipeg over the last few years and I find it interesting that LeBruin mentions it as a topic of conversation that has come up in the Laine camp.
It's no secret Laine has had issues with where's been slotted into the lineup, voicing his concerns in a 2019 September interview with Pekka Jalonen, of Finnish outlet Iltalehti.
"When you're having contract negotiations, one thing always is who are you playing with. With the merits I have, somewhere else I'd have an opportunity to play with the best players. Everybody who understands hockey knows that,” Laine said via translation by Jalonen. “There are top lines and then there is our line. But I play with the guys I'm told to play.”
They were comments that Jets players, management and head coach Paul Maurice all shot down at the time, but it's hard to ignore Laine's feelings when accessing what's to come in the Laine/Jets saga.
Although Laine hasn't had as much of a chance to play top-line minutes like he would like to be playing, Laine is coming off a career high in 5v5 minutes per game played.
How of much of that comes from his comments, and how much of that comes from a season where the Jets were quite often facing injures to their forward group?
Taking a look at Laine’s 5v5 ice time per game played, shows an interesting trend. After taking a step back after his rookie year, Laine’s 5v5 ice time per game has increased in each of the last two seasons.
2016-17: 14:11 5v5 ice time/GP (3rd among forwards)
2017-18: 12:48 5v5 ice time/GP (6th among forwards)
2018-19: 13:00 5v5 ice time/GP (5th among forwards)
2019-20: 15:13 5v5 ice time/GP (3rd among forwards)
The stats above indicate that Laine has earned more trust 5v5 and is getting increased playing time even strength because of it.
What is a bit alarming however has been his 5v5 production. In each of the last two seasons, Laine’s goals/60 has dropped below 1.00, a mark he was well above in his first two NHL seasons.
2016-17: 1.22 goals/60 5v5 (1st among forwards)
2017-18: 1.26 goals/60 5v5 (1st among forwards)
2018-19: 0.73 goals/60 5v5 (7th among forwards)
2019-20: 0.87 goals/60 5v5 (3rd among forwards)
The second part of LeBrun's comments that caught my attention was Laine’s agents admitting it might be beneficial to both sides if the Jets were to trade their superstar.
To me, that says while Laine may not have actually asked
for a trade, it is something he would like. It also leads me to believe that if Laine is not traded, darker days may be ahead.
LeBrun also talked with Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff.
“Now I spoke to Kevin Cheveldayoff on this day. And he reiterated that he's looking at all options when it comes to trade and that Patrik Laine remains a big part of the organization. What I would say, not Cheveldayoff, is that he's not going to just trade Patrik Laine for the sake of it, that it's going to have to be something that makes sense for the Winnipeg Jets,” LeBrun added.
“But I will say this, as Andy Scott, the agent for Patrik Laine, said to me, there is a clear understanding between both sides about where this is probably headed.”
Where this goes from here is anyone’s guess, but with Laine’s agents nor Cheveldayoff shooting down the rumors of a Laine trade, things have gotten more interesting.
The Jets have had a heck of an offseason, making several additions that should immediately improve a Jets team that is hungry for more after a disappointing ending to a rather bizarre season.
So the timing of a Laine trade in that sense, doesn’t seem like the right one. But the return on a 22-year old forward who has *checks notes* 138 goals in 305 career games could be one that changes the course of the Jets franchise for years to come.
Or you know, employing Laine for years to come could also do the same.