Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine have been compared to one another ever since they were selected first and second overall, respectively, in the 2016 NHL Draft.
The Toronto Maple Leafs star inked a contract extension Tuesday that will pay him an average of $11.634 million annually over the next five seasons and the Winnipeg Jets star is also eligible to sign his first non-entry-level NHL contract. However, based on his recent inexplicable scoring slump it’s tough to imagine he’d be rewarded with a salary cap hit as lucrative as the one Matthews received.
What’s wild is back in November a cap hit around $11 million for the Finnish winger would’ve seemed like a bargain.
Laine ended up scoring a whopping 18 goals in November, adding one assist along the way, to become the fifth player since 1989-90 to score 18 or more goals in a single month. The 20-year-old also hit the century mark, becoming the fourth-youngest player to record 100 regular-season NHL goals behind only Wayne Gretzky, Jimmy Carson and Brian Bellows.
Since that magnificent month, Laine’s pace has slowed at a concerning rate and in the past 19 games he has just two goals and three assists.
“It doesn’t look like he’s interested,” Don Cherry, who celebrated his 85th birthday Tuesday, said during an appearance on Prime Time Sports. “Somebody should give him a smack or something. He’s the guy that I thought would really turn it on for a contract.”
Laine, who has more goals than everyone not named Alex Ovechkin since debuting in the NHL in 2016-17, is joined by Kyle Connor, Andrew Copp, Nicolas Petan, Brendan Lemieux, Jacob Trouba, Joe Morrow and Laurent Brossoit as Winnipeg’s pending restricted free agents.
“I don’t know what’s going on. When he was [within 20 feet from the net] nobody could shoot the puck like him,” Cherry added. “I have no idea what’s going on with the guy. … I just thought he’d be one of the top scorers of all-time and [a top-paid player] but I don’t know what they’re going to do now.”
Despite Laine’s struggles, the Jets have maintained their spot atop the Central Division standings.