Patrik Laine hasn’t formally asked to be shipped out of Winnipeg, but apparently he’s not too opposed to the idea either. The Jets are now engaging in trade talks involving the star winger and according to David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period, the Anaheim Ducks are among several teams with “varying degrees of interest” in Laine.
Pagnotta also notes that the areas Winnipeg would hope to address in a trade would be the center and defense — but even taking into account Winnipeg’s assets, it’s hard to see a scenario where Winnipeg doesn’t lose a trade involving the second-overall pick of the 2016 NHL Draft.
The reason Winnipeg is even considering shipping out Laine is that they’ve been slowly heading toward a cap crunch. Just 13 roster players are currently signed and the Jets have approximately $15.5 million to sign the other half of the roster. Laine has one year left at $6.75 million, which is a fair amount of relief for the Jets in itself, but it also takes them off the hook for Laine’s pay raise he’s due for as a restricted free agent next summer.
At just 22 years old, Laine scored nearly a point per game last season and would’ve certainly hit 30 goals for the fourth consecutive year if not for the coronavirus-induced season pause. He is a bit of a controversial player — his defensive impact is pretty bad, and doesn’t always get made up for by his lethal snapshot.
Making the money work in Anaheim this season is a simple matter of what goes in the other direction: perhaps the price tag of Adam Henrique or Josh Manson paired with picks and prospects could add up to something that would make sense, but it’s still a tough trade for me to imagine.
I don’t think Anaheim wants to part with the pieces Winnipeg would be searching for, especially at center. Star players aren’t supposed to be traded for spare parts (even if it does sometimes happen in this league). Henrique might pique Winnipeg’s interest, but when it comes to creating a package around him at 30 years old likely means dipping into the prospect pool and the Ducks are in rebuild mode, so moving prospects around becomes a tricky gamble.
There’s also the cap to consider: Henrique’s $5.825 million contract offers less than $1 million in relief for the Jets, he’s signed for longer and he’s older. They’d be committing to Henrique at center. Then there’s the Ducks’ cap issues, which admittedly loosen up next season when the David Backes and Ryan Getzlaf contracts come off the books, leaving room for re-signing Laine. But for right now, money has to go back the other way.
Getting past the technical, would it be a good move for the Ducks?
Laine is a star, but the high-risk hockey he plays allows for defensive lapses. That’s a hard ask on the Ducks’ defense, which is in a semi-state of transition. Last season, the Ducks were the fifth-worst team in unblocked shots and attempts against (per Natural Stat Trick). They were fairly middle of the pack in unblocked shots and attempts for (13th overall) — the offense can use work, sure, but the defense is dreadful.
Then again, like I said, the Ducks are in rebuild mode. Maybe they’ll accept those defensive lapses for now in order to lock down Laine for a future with a re-imagined D-corps. Stranger things have happened.