Once the heir to the Ovie throne, the Winnipeg Jets suffered through a tough season with their stud winger, and now the possibility looms that he may not return.
The Winnipeg Jets need to make sure they use their cap space wisely. I’ve beat it into your head so many times, I’m surprised I don’t have it tattooed on my body somewhere.
It’s true, though. This team can’t overcome a bad contract as well as another, and their window will surely slam shut quicker than some. Good decisions need to be made to stay relevant.
That brings us to Patrik Laine. Now, Laine just had the worst season of his three year career, putting up just thirty goals, twenty assists and sporting a -24 plus/minus, all career worsts.
Now, this was somewhat explained by the fact that Laine was dealing with a back injury for most of the year. I’m not a doctor, but I have hurt my back, and it’s no fun. It messes everything up.
And there’s really no other explanation for his poor play. He dropped off considerably and had enough time in him that I was confident in him being one of the league’s top snipers.
This season had me doubting everything. Now, learning he had an injury, I’m fully confident that he’ll return to form next season. That form, however, is somewhat flawed. He’s a great player no doubt.
But he’s not an elite skater nor an elite defender. Powerplay specialists are useful. But for a team with dwindling future assets and cap space, they need to figure out which players to keep and which to maximize.
Can Laine be the guy on a Cup winner? I’m not sure. He doesn’t really have to, since Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele are the stars of the team. But can they afford to have someone who might cost what Laine would if he’s not the guy?
I’m not sure what Laine’s gonna cost. He definitely didn’t do himself any favors last year, but he did do the Jets one. An RFA contract, he might look for a short term prove-it deal.
But the Jets could look to move him. Even after a down year, Laine has star power. He would be worth a bit in a trade. At least a first rounder and a prospect, if not more. The Jets could clear space, pick up a youngster and replenish themselves through the draft (or use those picks to acquire others).
Laine is a flawed player and a scapegoat. He’s also super useful and keeps the Jets offense in elite territory, since their depth has waned quite a bit in recent seasons. But Laine at his best is going to cost a princely sum, and the Jets might seek a more well-rounded player (or players) for that money.
Some of these assets need to be capitalized on, and the Jets need to capitalize. Maybe nobody’s willing to pay top-dollar for Laine after that season, and the Jets really shouldn’t sell low.
I see short term deal in the future. But like Jacob Trouba before him, the Jets can only put this decision off so long. Eventually they’ll need to decide. And while it once seemed the Jets would never let Laine go, it doesn’t seem so farfetched now.