Jets’ Finnish star Patrik Laine has been one of the hottest names in the NHL’s transfer speculation throughout the autumn.
Speculation has not been in vain, as Laine no longer represents Jets for very long.
GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is in a situation where he is forced to make the first real giant deal of his Jets career in the next 9-10 months. If Cheveldayoff doesn’t do it now or at the latest before the transfer deadline of 2023, Laine will leave Winnipeg as a free man to which NHL club he wants.
The Laine camp playbook is exactly the same as the one Jacob Trouba got out of the Jets in the summer of 2019.
And Cheveldayoff knows this.
A year ago, Laine signed a two-year, $ 13.5 million bridge agreement with Jets, bringing Laine $ 7.5 million for next season. The contract expires next summer, when Wave becomes a limited free agent with the right to arbitration.
This will ensure that Laine’s next arbitration agreement is much more valuable and will last for a maximum of two years.
And this is exactly the situation that the Jets fear and that the Laine camp has wanted.
So unless Cheveldayoff does something radical soon, the Jets are in big trouble.
What can Cheveldayoff do?
He may try to negotiate a new multi-year agreement with Laine next season.
It will not succeed. Or maybe you could succeed if Cheveldayoff’s salary offer started at at least ten and was followed by six zeros and the contract wasn’t too long in Laine’s opinion.
In next summer’s arbitration, Laine would likely receive an annual salary of about $ 9-9.5 million without selling Jets any unlimited agent for his UFA year. Cheveldayoff should therefore offer Laine well over 10 million annual salary if he wants to keep the Finnish star after the summer of 2023.
Cheveldayoff cannot make such an offer without a magic trick.
The Jets have caught Blake Wheeler (cap hit 8.25 million), Kyle Connor (7.143 million), Mark Scheifele (6.125 million) and Nikolaj Ehlers (6.0 million), defenders Josh Morrissey (6.25 million) and goalkeepers Connor Hellebuyck’s (6.25 million) long-term, 4-7-year contracts, and these six men are already taking more than 45 million from the 2021-22 pay cap.
So the alternative to Cheveldayoff remains player trading.
The Jets have non-monetary reasons to trade Laine. The team must be strengthened.
The Jets desperately need at least one defender who can play big minutes in the No. 1 pair.
There are a few dimensional defenders on the free agents list, but which of them is willing to leave for the frost of Winnipeg? Hardly anyone.
Cheveldayoff only gets a good enough defender with a player trade.
The Jets also desperately need a decent second center. For three years now, everyone has seen that Bryan Little is not the second centerpiece of a successful team.
Now, playing Little next season and even his entire career are at stake due to a head injury, so Cheveldayoff has a good (deed) reason to correct his mistake.
Cheveldayoff gave 2017 Little a $ 31.75 million retirement contract with four more years left. That agreement prevented Paul Stastny from remaining on Jets as the center of Laine.
Jets ’problem with the second center would be solved by moving Wheeler Scheifele from the right edge to the middle of the second chain, but that’s not what head coach Paul Maurice does. Wheeler wants to play alongside Scheifele and Maurice can’t get the team captain angry.
The Jets will have only four booking shifts in the draft next Tuesday and Wednesday. By suddenly trading, Laine’s Cheveldayoff could get at least one first-round booking turn in addition to a good defender or center striker, and maybe pretty much something else.
Cheveldayoff apparently will not work until the booking ceremony. But every expert knows that he will do something about Laine before the transfer limit for next season expires.
The market value of Laine is so high that losing it and letting Laine go to arbitration would be downright criminal activity from Cheveldayoff.
Laine is of interest to many clubs because at the age of 22 he is one of the best scorers in the world. He has scored 138 goals in the NHL regular season in four seasons. Only six players have been able to get better since the fall of 2016.
During the season, Laine significantly improved his overall play. On top of all that, a part of Laine’s potential has only just been seen. He still has a lot of room to improve, but it happens in coaching and playing someone other than Paul Maurice.
When the news of the sale of Laine is announced, the happiest man is definitely Laine.