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NHL Trade Talk

Flyers Could Trade for Blue Jackets’ Patrik Laine

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Patrik Laine

NHL insider Pierre LeBrun reported on Wednesday that former Winnipeg Jets star and current Columbus Blue Jackets forward Patrik Laine wants a “fresh start” and that Laine and the Blue Jackets were working on orchestrating a trade, though it’s unclear which teams are involved. What is clear, though, is that the Philadelphia Flyers have a massive need for a player of Laine’s size and talent.

Making that observation is as simple as the situation gets, however.

Though it might seem like he’s been around forever at this point, Laine only turned 26 years old two months ago on April 19. His age and past history of being a productive player should be green flags for the Flyers, even if it’s clear Laine hasn’t been playing at the level he is and once was capable of.

For example, we know that Laine’s ceiling as an NHL player (so far) is 44 goals and 70 points, and his floor–in a regular, non-COVID-affected season–is 20 goals and 50 points. And those 50 point seasons were seasons where Laine produced near or at a point per game pace.

Laine was at his worst, however, playing under Flyers head coach John Tortorella in Columbus in the 2020-21 season. That was the year where Laine was traded for Pierre-Luc Dubois after playing one game with the Jets. And it’s hard to pinpoint Laine’s struggles solely on the change of scenery or Tortorella; the Blue Jackets as a whole were terrible.

Jack Roslovic, traded with Laine, was the team’s No. 1 center. The other Blue Jackets centers that year were Boone Jenner, who scored 17 points in 41 games, a 21-year-old Alexandre Texier, a 37-year-old Mikko Koivu, Mikhail Grigorenko, Kevin Stenlund, and Riley Nash.

All things considered, that’s not a recipe for success, and especially so if you’re a winger like Laine whose game revolves around other people getting the puck to you.

Tortorella was subsequently dismissed after going 18-26-12 in 2020-21, and soon after, Laine told Finnish media that “Tortorella did not give freedom to anyone. Forwards want to create offensively. I do not even want to be like everyone else. I am who I am and I do things my way. . . I think it’s stupid not to use my potential.”

After watching the Flyers for the last two years, we know that Tortorella is still the same coach, but his methods are both welcomed and encouraged in Philadelphia, especially after the success that was the 2023-24 season.

In the two seasons that followed Tortorella’s dismissal, Laine scored 48 goals and 108 points in 111 regular season games, though he also missed a total of 53 games in that same span of time. This past season, the 6-foot-5 sharpshooter played in only 18 games before entering the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program on Jan. 28, recording six goals, three assists, and nine points in 18 games.

Upon entering the NHL/NHL Player Assistance Program, Laine posted the following statement to his personal Instagram account:

“Dear fans and supporters, I wanted to take a moment to address my need to step away from the game for a while. After careful consideration and discussions with my support network and the team, I have recognized the importance of prioritizing my mental health and well-being. Hockey has been my passion and my life, but I have come to realize that in order to perform at my best, I need to take this time to focus on myself.

“I am grateful for the understanding and support of my team, the league, and our fans during this time. I look forward to returning to the ice with a clear mind and renewed energy. Thank you for respecting my privacy during this time and for your continued support.

“With love, Patty.”

Laine is still in the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program, though it seems he is close to returning to the ice given the trade winds are now blowing. Aside from his Flyers connections (for better or for worse) with Tortorella and Cam Atkinson, we must also recognize the state of his current contract.

The 26-year-old is in the third year of a four-year, $34.8 million contract he signed with Columbus on July 22, 2022, and currently carries a cap hit of $8.7 million. Laine also has a 10-team no-trade list, though it’s unclear if the Flyers are one of those teams at this time.

All of this considered, Laine does come with a lot of baggage, especially given his past relationship with Tortorella. But hey, maybe Laine has turned over a new leaf and is finally engaged and feeling well enough to get back to his best.

The Blue Jackets have almost no leverage with the NHL trade talks going public, combined with Laine’s contract and recent history of missing games.

As for the Flyers, they’ve had the NHL’s worst power play for three years running, and 70 of Laine’s 204 career NHL goals have come on the power play, including a staggering 20 power play goals in the 2017-18 season. For those who don’t enjoy math, over a third (34%) of Laine’s goals have come on the man advantage.

The Flyers have two picks in the first and second rounds of the 2024 NHL Draft, with one of the seconds belonging to Columbus. Would sending the pick back to Columbus for Laine do the trick?

Maybe. Maybe not.

But if that’s all it takes to take a chance on two years of Laine, why not? If it doesn’t work, the Flyers can trade Laine again or let him walk in 2027. Rebuilds are all about taking risks, and this could be one of them.

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