Updates on Patrik Laine and Rasmus Ristolainen in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.
LATEST ON LAINE
SPORTSNET: Sean Reynolds believes Patrik Laine’s recent remarks regarding his contract status serves as a reminder of the Winnipeg Jets’ vulnerability as a small-market club. The 21-year-old restricted free agent winger last week described contract talks as nonexistent, adding he didn’t know where he’d be playing this season and was prepared for anything.
Reynolds points out the Jets hold the leverage and control where Laine plays. He also suggested the winger’s remarks could be an attempt to get contract negotiations moving forward. Nevertheless, Reynolds feels “time, money, and circumstance are all working against the Jets.”
Unlike teammate Kyle Connor, there’s no confirmation if Laine has been contacted by rival clubs hoping to sign him to an offer sheet. However, Reynolds suggests the young Finn’s comments indicate he “at the very least understands that he is prepared, if not open, to a hockey future outside of Winnipeg.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: An offer sheet is always possible but the best opportunity for that was late June or early July when teams had more salary-cap space and willingness to spend it. I believe it would take an offer sheet worth over $9 million annually to tempt Laine.
Cap Friendly indicates only six teams have the cap space to make that pitch. Three of them (Colorado, Columbus, Tampa Bay) have RFA talent of their own (Mikko Rantanen, Zach Werenski, Brayden Point) to re-sign. That leaves the Minnesota Wild, Ottawa Senators, and Philadelphia Flyers.
The Wild is undergoing a management change and unlikely to go the offer-sheet route. The rebuilding Senators probably won’t interest Laine while the Flyers must re-sign Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny.
If another club wants to offer-sheet Laine, they’ll have to shed salary or do some creative accounting. Regardless, it would be a pointless exercise. The Jets have over $17 million in salary-cap space and can match an offer sheet for Laine.
RISTOLAINEN STILL PART OF SABRES PLANS
THE BUFFALO NEWS: Mike Harrington reports Sabres general manager Jason Botterill still plans on having Risto Ristolainen on his team when training camp opens next month. The 25-year-old defenseman raised eyebrows during a recent interview in Finland by implying it might be better if he were traded.
Botterill said he wasn’t disappointed or surprised by Ristolainen’s remarks. He continues to interact with the blueliner but is keeping those discussions private.
Ristolainen has three years remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $5.4 million. While the Sabres sit over $1 million above the $81.5-million salary cap, Harrington said they can find other ways to become cap compliant other than moving Ristolainen. He also noted the Sabres are overloaded on right defense and require depth at forward.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Botterill isn’t exactly smacking down the Ristolainen trade speculation. He may be looking ahead at having the blueliner on the roster when training camp opens, but he’s also not dismissing the notion that the d-man could be traded before camp opens.
Ristolainen could be shopped for a top-six winger before training camp. However, I think Botterill won’t move unless he gets the right return. It could take until next summer to find it.