The Winnipeg Jets host the Columbus Blue Jackets this evening, and while the focus is (and should be) on the teams’ promising future, and their improbable ascension to the top of NHL rankings – it is a natural reflection point to discuss the biggest trade in Winnipeg Jets 2.0 history.
On January 23, 2021, the Jets traded Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic to the Blue Jackets for Pierre-Luc Dubois and a third-round pick (which became Danny Zhilkin). It was the exclamation point to a tumultuous roller-coaster ride that typified Laine’s tenure with the team.
In an odd bit of symmetry, both clubs felt compelled to swap 2016 first round picks. Laine (2nd) and PLD (3rd) were publicly unhappy with their respective clubs, and both organizations felt that their futures were untenable long-term.
Patrik Laine on the Winnipeg Jets was a Generational Scorer
Almost two years have passed since that fateful day, leaving plenty of time to reflect, mourn and analyze. JFresh (@JFreshHockey on Twitter), probably the preeminent Laine analyst, broke the trade down thusly:
For full transparency, I miss Patrik Laine. From his rookie season, until his final game with the Jets, Laine was ninth in NHL goal scoring – totaling 142 goals (111 assists and 253 points). The man scores more than Neil Strauss. Post trade, Laine has struggled with injuries, playing in only 109 games and registering 38 goals, 43 assists, and 81 points. In his first season with Columbus, the true Laine experience was on display:
It is bittersweet then that comparatively, PLD has had a greater impact for his new team. In PLD’s 143 games as a Jet, he has scored 46 goals, 54 assists, and 100 points. The points and goals per game averages unsurprisingly favour Laine, but we knew from the onset that PLD was not as prolific as Laine measured by pure offensive output alone. PLD’s tantalizing combination of size, power, and speed have been on full display, and his driving of play is invaluable. He is inconsistent at times and undisciplined, but he has all the tools to develop into a true #1 center:
Patrik Laine is well, Patrik Laine. From his incredible sartorial choices, to his outsized personality, he is a one of a kind in this league. Nothing was as exciting as watching him blast one-timers from all angles on the powerplay. He could singlehandedly change the momentum of a game.
So Who Won the Trade Between the Winnipeg Jets and Blue Jackets?
So, who has ‘won’ the trade thus far? Let’s first talk as quickly as possible about the garnishments of this trade, Jack Roslovic, and Danny Zhilkin. Enough said.
Injuries, stats, and team records aside, the true winner is currently Columbus – solely for the fact that Laine is signed longish term (4 years $34.8M), and PLD has one more year left on his contract and has openly courted leaving Winnipeg. Will Laine be worth the 7+ million per year? Time will tell, but at least Columbus can plan for him longterm. The Jets are presently without this luxury. If PLD leaves Winnipeg, it will undoubtedly be remembered as a clinic in the mismanagement of assets. If the Jets can coax PLD into staying, I prefer Winnipeg’s side of the deal moving forward. In short, the jury is still out.
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We will get to see both players in action tonight, as Laine was activated off of the IR yesterday. Altruistically, I want to see both players succeed, but just not tonight. Laine’s torrid goal scoring pace has slowed, but the talent is still there. PLD is as advertised, but needs to fine tune his game. As Dan Akroyd and Eddie Murphy can attest to, trading places is never easy.