Eight potential trade destinations for Blue Jackets sniper Patrik Laine

Daily Faceoff's Frank Seravalli joins The FAN Pregame to discuss the report that Patrik Laine has requested a trade from the Columbus Blue Jackets and what the market may look like for the forward if the team does decide to move him.

For the second straight year, the Columbus Blue Jackets find themselves in the summer spotlight.

Rewind to this time last year, and it was the Mike Babcock saga that threatened to derail the Jackets, the club hiring the controversial coach in July only to have to replace him by September, the whole tumultuous affair leaving the team mired in chaos before the season even got underway. 

A year later, it seems Columbus has chosen chaos once again. Pascal Vincent, who took over coaching duties in the wake of Babcock’s ousting, has been dismissed himself — the move made by Don Waddell, who’s taken over as GM after half a decade in Carolina. And Patrik Laine, one of the biggest stars on the roster, appears to want out, too.

Reports surfaced last week that Laine and the team are working together to find him a fresh start. According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, plans for the winger to move on from the Blue Jackets have been in motion for some time.

“We were headed to this last season,” Friedman said on a recent episode of 32 Thoughts: The Podcast. “Laine got hurt, and I had heard during that time that when Laine was healthy enough to return, this was going to happen. The Blue Jackets, then under Jarmo Kekäläinen were going to give permission for Laine to explore a trade, and Laine’s agents to do it. Then of course Laine went into the [NHL/NHLPA player assistance] program. 

“I do think this is something that was brewing. The Blue Jackets knew that Laine preferred this, and they were willing to help facilitate it.”

The 26-year-old remains in the program, and on the mend from injuries — a fractured clavicle took him out of the lineup for an extended period during the regular season, and he recently underwent a minor shoulder procedure — but the winger is expected to be ready to return to the ice for 2024-25.

Still, a deal to grant Laine the fresh start he desires won’t be a simple one to put together. The core issue is salary, with two years remaining on the four-year pact he inked in 2022, which carries an $8.7-million cap hit. During his early years in the league, the Tampere, Finland, product showed his potential to dominate offensively, but after a tough run in Columbus — which saw him limited to fewer than 60 games in each of his four seasons with the team, and unable to crack the 30-goal plateau — that price tag will seem steep for many clubs. That Laine’s deal includes a modified no-trade clause only complicates things further.

That said, potential issues aside, there’s no question there will be suitors for the former 40-goal scorer. While it’s been years since Laine was in a situation that allowed him to unlock the full potential of his skill-set, his all-world shot is sure to entice more than a few teams who feel they can put him in a position to rediscover his scoring touch. 

On Thursday, Waddell shed light on where the situation currently stands. 

“We’re still working with his agent, Andy Scott. He’s still in the program, and once he gets out — which we expect any day, some time soon — teams have [said] they want to talk with him if they’re going to make a move,” Waddell said. “It’s too early to say about [retaining] money — our hope is that we wouldn’t have to hold money. We want to make a hockey trade if we can, and we’re certainly exhausting every opportunity, and every team that potentially has interest.

“Right now, we’re all playing nice in the sandbox, until we get to the point where a decision has to be made. You know, maybe there’s not something out there that makes sense for us. Then we have to cross that bridge. Right now, they’ve expressed their view, and we’ve said that we will certainly look at all our options. But if the options are limited, or there are no options that make any sense, then we’ll have to deal with that.”

Fresh off a day of blockbuster deals around the league, here’s a look at who might be interested in landing the former Winnipeg Jet.

Seattle Kraken

According to Friedman, the Kraken are sure to be in that mix. “A few people said to me, ‘You have to watch Seattle on this one,’” Friedman said in the latest episode of 32 Thoughts: The Podcast. “That doesn’t come as a surprise, because the Kraken have been looking for scorers. … The other thing too is Seattle can do it — they’re a team that can do this deal.” It would make sense. On the money side, the Kraken have plenty of cap space to work with. And fit-wise, the club is in dire need of an offensive boost, having scored the fourth-fewest goals per game in the league last season. 

After seemingly taking a step forward 2022-23, Seattle fell back to earth in 2023-24 — if they hope to bounce back next year, they need a difference-maker, and Laine’s shown in the past that he has the potential to be just that. “I think there is a real push in that organization to be more aggressive, and I see Laine as something that makes sense there,” Friedman continued. “For the people that want to be more aggressive, and the people who prefer to be a little conservative. Because I don’t think his contract breaks you, or is overly risky.”

Carolina Hurricanes

The Canes’ desire to upgrade their offence was made clear in their swing to land Jake Guentzel at the trade deadline. But the playoff run fell short, and now Guentzel heads into free agency. If he doesn’t opt to return to Carolina, could Laine wind up as a backup option? Of course, there’s more to the link than simply swapping one sniper for another — crucial for any team acquiring Laine will be their view of whether or not they can get the most out of the winger, whether they have pieces that can help Laine thrive. The Canes have a clear advantage on that front, as they’ve already seen Laine dominate alongside the leader of Carolina’s offence, Sebastian Aho. 

The pair made waves together for the Finnish national team at the 2016 World Juniors, amassing a combined 27 points through seven games as they won gold on home ice. Like we saw with Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin’s reunion in Colorado, perhaps an Aho reunion could be the key to helping Laine find his game. And beyond his potential linemate, the rest of the Canes roster is strong enough, offensively and defensively, that Laine could play free of the pressure of being the offensive focal point. The money could be a complication, unless Columbus retains some salary, but Carolina does have the cap space to make it work as they retool their offence, and the Jackets’ new GM, Waddell, has in-depth knowledge of the assets the Canes could offer up in return.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Look down the list of needs for the Penguins heading into their redemption campaign, and Laine checks plenty of boxes. The Pens seemed in need of offensive help last season, of dynamic skill to bolster their talented-but-ageing core. They need to get younger too, with stars who are in their prime, not the twilight of their careers. And then there’s the power play, which desperately needs a new element to help raise its level. Enter, Laine — 26 years old, a former 40-goal scorer, and at one time, when he was at his best, the league’s power-play goal-scoring leader. Key to the potential fit in Pittsburgh is the fact that the Pens still have two all-world playmakers in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. We need only to look to what happened last time Pittsburgh brought in a talented, oft-maligned winger who needed a fresh start, and put him alongside the club’s star pivots (see: Kessel, Phil).

It would likely take some salary retention to make a deal happen, though the Penguins do have some sizable contracts that could be moved this off-season. Dubas has shown his willingness to make the money work if he has a chance to add game-changing talent — as he did with the Erik Karlsson acquisition — and Waddell has shown his willingness to deal with Dubas, the pair linking up on the deal that sent Guentzel to Carolina in March.

Utah Hockey Club

The ex-Arizona Coyotes approach a landmark season in 2024-25, surely hoping to begin their stint in Utah on a high note. Working in their favour is the promising pool of young talent already assembled on the roster, with Logan Cooley, Matias Maccelli and Clayton Keller already finding success, and others — like young Conor Geekie and the prospect Utah will snag sixth overall in this year’s draft — on their way. Still, the roster is short on veteran game-breaking talent, and as a middle-of-the-pack offensive club last year, they could use a boost on that front. In Laine, the team could bring in the type of highlight-reel scorer new owner Ryan Smith would surely want to showcase to Utah’s new fans in Year 1.

Laine will have some control over where he goes given his modified no-trade clause, though. And his role on Utah’s roster might not be too dissimilar to the one he seemed to struggle with in Columbus. That said, Utah does have some exceptional young playmakers who could help him find his game. And in terms of a fresh start, it doesn’t get much fresher than the chance to be a face of the franchise for a city’s inaugural NHL campaign. Utah has an absurd amount of cap space, plenty of draft picks, and some roster players they could part with, so there’s little doubt they could make a deal work, asset-wise. 

Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks are in somewhat of a similar situation. It’s been six years since Anaheim earned a playoff berth, and flipping that script in 2024-25 seems far from a certainty at this point. But their roster is brimming with marquee young scorers in Mason MacTavish, Trevor Zergras and Leo Carlsson, alongside some solid veterans dotted throughout the roster, and a talented netminder who seems worthy of a better squad in front of him. Like Utah, what Anaheim doesn’t have is an elite, veteran scorer. And while it’s unclear if that’s what Laine is at this point, given how his tenure in Columbus has gone, in the early years of his career he looked every bit that type of impact player. For a club in Anaheim’s position, rolling the dice on him rediscovering that touch in Ducks colours seems a worthwhile gamble.

It’s clear they need the offensive help — the Ducks scored the third-fewest goals per game in the league last season, and put the fourth-fewest pucks on net. Unsurprisingly, their power play floundered too. But they have three talented playmakers in Zegras, MacTavish and Carlsson, all of whom have enough skill to unlock Laine’s goal-scoring prowess — and could benefit themselves from having a trigger-man like No. 29 on their wing. Cap space wouldn’t be an issue, and the Ducks have multiple picks in each of the first three rounds of this year’s draft, along with some moveable roster pieces. The question is whether Laine would view the young Ducks’ situation as better than the one he would be leaving behind.

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Nashville Predators

This time last year, Barry Trotz was making clear his vision of the Predators’ future as he took the reins of the club and brought in a new head coach. “We want to become more of an offensive team,” Trotz had said then, explaining how that want tied into the team’s decision to hire Andrew Brunette. And it’s precisely because of this goal, and how Brunette is working to make it a reality, that Laine could be a fit in Nashville. “Andrew specializes on that side of the ice — he lived it as a player, and he coaches it as a coach. He is as good of an offensive teacher and power-play coach as there is in the game today,” Trotz continued. If you’re a former star scorer looking to get back on track, that seems like a good place to start. 

The Predators have already been linked to other marquee scorers this off-season given the club’s desire for offensive help. It’s fair to assume Laine will be on their radar too, given he’d be a clear upgrade for their top six. His salary wouldn’t be an issue, as the Preds head into the summer with plenty of cap space to work with. The bigger question is whether the presence of an offensive-minded coach like Brunette would be enough to convince Laine to accept a deal to Tennessee. Working in Nashville’s favour is the potential combination he could be a part of — look back through what worked and what didn’t during Laine’s previous stops, and it seems the ideal mix for him is a line that gives him some playmaking to work with, and some defensive cover. Tough to do better than Filip Forsberg and Ryan O’Reilly on that front.

Chicago Blackhawks / San Jose Sharks

Given how similar their situations are, you might as well lump Chicago and San Jose together. Both clubs bottomed out in 2023-24, finishing as the two worst teams in the league by the season’s end. Despite the promise brought by young talent on both squads, offensive woes were among the primary reasons for those big-picture struggles, with the pair potting the fewest and second-fewest goals per game, and shots per game, in the league last season. Asset-wise, both have a hefty collection of draft picks, and no shortage of cap space to fit in Laine’s salary — and both desperately need the presence of his elite shot on their top line.

Most importantly, though, both squads will head into 2024-25 with an incredible young scorer leading their forward corps. In Chicago, Connor Bedard proved in Year 1 why he was worth the hype before his entrance into the league. In San Jose, the team will soon use their 2024 first-overall pick to add Boston University standout Macklin Celebrini. Both franchises would surely have some interest in dropping Laine on to their young star centre’s wing, giving them a proven outlet for their playmaking promise. While for Laine, either franchise would bring a fresh start in a market that would appreciate his skill, on a team where he would have plenty of opportunity to play, with a future superstar feeding him the puck.

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