Patrik Laine is probably the most valuable player on the Winnipeg Jets, in terms of pure return potential in the event of a trade.
Normally, trading a 22-year-old offensive powerhouse would be completely off the table. But considering the off-balance nature of this Jets roster, trading the former second-overall pick might be the quickest way to swing things back to a more cohesive equilibrium.
Let’s be clear though, the chances of the GM Kevin Cheveldayoff parting ways with Laine are extremely low, no matter what the return. However, insiders like Pierre Lebrun have long now speculated that it is still a possibility, so it’s worth looking into.
Historically, young forwards have been undervalued (cough cough Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson) and teams that trade those players often end up looking pretty silly right after. At just 22, it’s safe to say that we haven’t seen Laine in his prime and that prime could end up being as high as a league-leading goal-scorer. So if the Jets are going to trade Laine, they’re going to need to make sure that the return is an overpay in order for Cheveldayoff to justify trading him.
We’ll be taking a look at possible trade partners for the Jets and Laine, and what kind of return Winnipeg might be to demand in exchange for the Finnish winger.
But first, let’s take a look at just how good Laine has been since breaking into the league in 2016.
In 305 career games, Laine’s put up 247 points, including 138 goals. He’s 39th in terms of total points over the past four seasons, but is tied for seventh in goals over that time frame with Leafs captain John Tavares. The players ahead of him in goals are all perennial all-stars and future Hall of Famers. This past season, Laine had 63 points in 68 games, which was good for fourth on the Jets in scoring behind Kyle Connor, Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele.
Laine’s cap hit is pretty reasonable considering his goal-scoring talent, locked in at $6.75 million for one more season.
This is the team that makes the most sense in the event of a Laine trade.
The Jets are in desperate need of any sort of competent defenders after losing Tyler Myers, Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Chiarot and Jacob Trouba over the past two seasons.
Luckily for Winnipeg, Carolina has an excess of quality defencemen and might be willing to part with one or two to lock down Laine.
For Carolina, adding Laine to play alongside Sebastian Aho would be a powerhouse combination that could make an entertaining team even better. For Winnipeg, a Brett Pesce or Brady Skjei would be the prime targets. Combine one of those alongside a first-round draft pick and a prospect (or even Vincent Trochek), and Hurricanes GM Don Waddell might be able to pry Laine from the Jets. The Jets would never allow for a “The trade is one-for-one” situation to occur, so bringing in multiple pieces for Laine would be the only option.
The only wrench in this plan is that Pesce is one of the Canes’ favourite players, and they might not be willing to let him go. Are the Jets desperate enough for a defender to trade their highest valued asset for a defender who’s value doesn’t match up? The short answer is yes, but Carolina’s sweetener in this deal would have to be some Sweet ‘N Low level sweetness.
Much like the Carolina Hurricanes, the Stars have become something of a haven for Finnish players, dating back to the days of Jere Lehtinen.
With Miro Heiskanen and Esa Lindell holding the fort on the back-end, the Stars might be willing to grow that chemistry by adding Patrik Laine as their certified goal scorer, a more talented and efficient version of Tyler Seguin.
So who could the Jets ask for in return?
The Stars have a number of RFA’s that need resigning, and if they can’t end up affording all of them, one that could end up being a great pick up for the Jets would be Denis Gurianov.
Gurianov is a criminally underused player who, given 20 minutes a night, could be as good a second-line player as anyone in the league. He’s only a year older than Laine too.
While only playing 13 minutes a night, Gurianov had 29 points in 64 games. In these playoffs, the Stars are playing him just under 15 minutes a night, and shocker, he’s taken full advantage, with 15 points in 16 games so far.
Of course, the Stars would have to add a number of other pieces to convince Winnipeg, but having Gurianov as the main piece coming back is a good starting place.
Stick with me on this one, because this is going to be the least likely option, but the most chaotic, and when it comes to hockey, I’m 100% on Team Chaos.
The Coyotes are a team in trouble. John Chayka is gone as GM after a mostly ineffective couple of seasons, they’ve been stripped of draft picks due to violations during the 2019 combine, they’re likely to lose Taylor Hall this offseason, and they got smoked in the qualifying round of these playoffs.
So listen, I know I just went on a little bit about how a one-for-one trade is just about the riskiest move you can pull if you’re the Jets trying to deal Laine. This is especially true if a defenceman is a return. But a Laine for Oliver Ekman-Larsson trade would be pure chaos and in theory, fills both teams’ needs. Winnipeg gets a pretty good, credible defender, and Arizona finally gets their star.
The best case scenario for the Jets in this trade situation would be to see Ekman-Larsson become the team’s top defenceman for the next four years. For the Coyotes, if they can resign Laine, they finally get have certified star that wants to stick around long term.
The downside is that the Coyotes might have trouble resigning Laine after next season and would probably be hesistant to trade for him because of that. For the Jets, well, Ekman-Larsson is 29 with four years left on an $8.25 million-per-year cap hit, and could very well end up on the Erik Karlsson island.
But, like I said, Team Chaos all the way.
The Montreal Canadiens might be willing to part with Nick Suzuki in a Laine trade situation, and for the Jets, that’s your second-line center for the future.
The New Jersey Devils don’t have much to offer in return for Laine, but a bunch of draft picks and maybe Damon Severson or Kyle Palmieri could do it if Cheveldayoff is feeling generous.
The Calgary Flames need new blood to join their core after another disapppointing playoff performance. Mikael Backlund is one of the most underrated players in the league. Would he be enough to grease the wheels in a Laine trade? Maybe add in a Oliver Kylington as a promising young defender with high hockey IQ and good wheels and the Jets could be inclined.
Follow me on Twitter @Matthew_Coyte