For those fans, Friday’s news, via an interview in Finland between Laine and Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, was probably not what they were hoping to hear.
To summarize, Laine, a restricted free agent, classified contract talks with the Jets this summer as nonexistent. He added, "you never know where you’re going to play next year so I’m just prepared for anything."
Now, contract negotiations will feature some awkward patches and comments such as the one from Laine above could easily be interpreted as nothing more than an attempt to push the process forward. The Jets remain in the driver’s seat as they have ultimate control over where Laine plays hockey next season, even if the 21-year-old Finnish superstar says he is unsure where that will be. And yet, there is no good news to be found here from the Jets perspective as they remain more exposed than other clubs in this uniquely tense and unsettled RFA market.
Attempts by Sportsnet Friday to reach Jets general manager Kevin Chevaldayoff and Laine’s agent, Mike Liut, were unsuccessful.
Time, money and circumstance are all working against the Jets. And because they are in possession of not one, but two — Kyle Connor being the other — high-scoring, unsigned RFAs wingers, teams still in need of scoring should be circling the Jets contemplating an offer sheet.
Earlier this week, Connor seemed to assuage nervous Jets fans by sounding like a player intending to stay in Winnipeg.
"We have great guys in the system and we have great players and trust in the management and the coaching staff. We’ll make up for them." Connor told assembled Winnipeg media earlier this week when asked about the exodus of Jets veterans this off-season. "We’re going to be a good team for sure."
Note Connor’s use of the term "we" when describing the Jets heading into next season. And this coming from a player we know has received interest from other clubs considering an offer sheet for him.
As for Laine? He struck a slightly different tone on Friday.
“Well I’ve got nothing bad to say about Winnipeg, you know?," Laine told Johnston. "It’s been good so far. But you never know."
Unlike Connor, we haven’t been able to confirm whether Laine has been contacted by other teams.
But what we do know now is that any team interested in Laine at the very least understands that he is prepared, if not open, to a hockey future outside of Winnipeg.