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It has been nearly a week since the Winnipeg Jets and the Columbus Blue Jackets sent seismic waves throughout the NHL by completing a blockbuster trade that involved two unhappy and disgruntled stars in Patrik Laine and Pierre-Luc Dubois.
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Winnipeg sent Laine and forward Jack Roslovic to the Blue Jackets for Dubois and a Third-Round pick in 2022, a star-laden trade that is normally only seen in the NBA. However, it was a deal that needed to be made given that both Laine and Dubois wanted out of their respective markets and things were beginning to get ugly with the latter in Columbus.
So, what now? Well, still sorting out visa issues, Patrik Laine hasn’t arrived in Columbus yet but he should be available soon and he will certainly add a much-needed scoring punch to a team that doesn’t have a lot of firepower in its arsenal. However, there are questions over whether or not the superstar forward will want to remain in Ohio long-term given that he wanted out of Winnipeg in order to play in a bigger market.
A Restricted Free Agent at the end of this season, Columbus will of course extend a Qualifying Offer to Laine’s camp if they can’t reach an agreement on a long-term deal beforehand, which the player can reject if he so wishes and that could open the door for teams to offer sheet the forward which would create a lot of fun indeed.
But, all of this is just speculation at this point and a lot can change between now and next offseason. What we do know, however, is that there will be a couple of things the Columbus Blue Jackets can and will need to do in order to make Patrik Laine feel right at home and persuade him that his long-term future is with a franchise that has developed an unfortunate habit of being unable to keep hold of their stars in recent years.
What The Columbus Blue Jackets can do to keep hold of Patrik Laine
Give Laine top-line minutes and star role on the PP
One of Patrik Laine’s biggest gripes during his time in Winnipeg was that he didn’t get a big enough role with the Jets, often playing on the second-line and averaging 17:40 minutes of ice time. Granted Laine did play a big role on the top power play unit but expect the 22-year-old to be the star of this Columbus Blue Jackets offense.
He’ll slot straight in on the top-line and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him surpass at least 20 minutes of total ice time per night, while he will become the focal point of the top power play unit where the entire offense will run through him. And that’s exactly how it should be. After all, Laine has recorded at least 50 points in each of his first four seasons in the National Hockey League, while he’s also surpassed 30 goals on three occasions. For an offense that currently ranks 23rd in Goals For Per Game (2.57) and a power play unit that ranks 30th (5.3) so far in 2020-21, Patrik Laine will be an absolute luxury and he should be the go-to-guy on offense which would no doubt please the player, especially if he can put up monster numbers.
Prove you want to win
It has been a strange couple of years for the Columbus Blue Jackets who have consistently made the Stanley Cup Playoffs, only to lose some of their top stars with the likes of Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky and Matt Duchene all jumping ship. The fact that they have stayed afloat is perhaps testament to the work done by General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen who has drafted and developed incredibly well, and to Head Coach John Tortorella who consistently gets the best out of his players.
However, now is the time for Kekalainen to really earn his wage by going out and ensuring that he surrounds Patrik Laine with as many weapons as possible to succeed and prove to his shiny new toy that the franchise is committed to winning. All players want to win and that is especially the case for stars, and if Kekalainen can demonstrate through actions that the Blue Jackets are dedicated to winning and winning now, and they will have around $25 million of cap space next offseason, then that could persuade Laine to sign a long-term deal with Columbus and help this organization win a Stanley Cup.
Get Torts to hold back a little
Okay, we’ll preface this by clearly stating that getting John Tortorella to hold back is like asking a child not to jump in a muddy puddle or trying to get a dog not to go after an innocent cat, it just isn’t in their DNA not to do those things and it isn’t in Tortorella’s DNA to not go after players and ride them if he thinks they aren’t living up to his high standards.
I mean, he didn’t hold back on Pierre-Luc Dubois and he’s already made it clear that Patrik Laine will be treated the same as any player. That is all well and good and I get the sentiment, but maybe holding back just a little and maybe even ensuring that Laine is happy and settled could go a long way to ensuring that the superstar decides to sign a long-term contract. And, John Tortorella would also benefit given that he wouldn’t have to deal with yet another heavyweight walking out on the team. Hey, it is a tough ask and Torts is going to be Torts, but it is worth an ask in any case.
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