NHL Rumor Mill – January 5, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – January 5, 2021

The latest on Patrik Laine and Pierre-Luc Dubois in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Ken Wiebe reports Patrik Laine danced around the trade talk swirling about him since September during a press conference yesterday.

That’s not something I think about. I only care about what’s going on today. I don’t worry about tomorrow,” Laine said. “Right now I’m here. I’m excited to play. I’m in good shape. I’m going to be a new player this year. And (I) just want to play well. That’s going to be best for both parties. What happens in the future, that’s not even my call. I’m going to work hard every night and that’s all I can do.”

Winnipeg Jets winger Patrik Laine (NHL Images).

Laine also brought up the old saying about how even Wayne Gretzky got traded, going on to say trades are part of the business. He said he’s not worried about the speculation and is focusing on doing his job.

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS/WINNIPEG SUN: Mike McIntyre and Paul Friesen believe Laine wants to be traded based on his comments yesterday. McIntyre points out it was the winger’s agents who publicly suggested trading their client would be mutually beneficial. Friesen feels there’s no other way to interpret Laine’s comments, adding the winger has gone from fan-favorite to pariah.

Both pundits pointed out Laine’s unhappiness over his role with the Jets. He prefers playing on the first line but has been relegated to second-line duty. McIntyre also noted that Laine and team captain Blake Wheeler don’t often see eye-to-eye, with Laine a laid-back, easy-going person while Wheeler is more intense.

Laine could be in Winnipeg for a while. He’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer and is three years away from unrestricted free agent eligibility. Friesen feels this is about business, unlike Evander Kane’s trade request three years ago which appeared to be more about Winnipeg itself.

SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ken Campbell wonders if the relationship between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Pierre-Luc Dubois can be mended following reports the young center sought a trade despite signing a two-year contract with the Jackets last week.

Campbell considers this a frustrating situation since no one can figure out why Dubois feels he needs a change of scenery. “Is it the GM? Is it the coach? Is it the market?” He points out the youngster bought a condo in Columbus last August so he apparently wasn’t looking to leave back then. However, something changed after entering into contract negotiations with GM Jarmo Kekalainen, who insisted those discussions weren’t acrimonious.

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun weighed in on the Laine and Dubois situations. He believes Laine could be in the $9 million range in an arbitration case if he has a huge goal-scoring season. The Jets would prefer to deal with his situation before then.

LeBrun cites sources saying Philadelphia, Carolina and Columbus had spoken with the Jets about Laine but nothing came of it. “At least not yet.” He feels Cheveldayoff would’ve moved the winger if he’d found a good deal.

An obvious solution would appear to be swapping Laine for Dubois. However, the sticking point would be whether either player would be interested in long-term commitments with their new teams.

The Jackets have more time to work something out with Dubois given his recent new contract. The flat salary cap for next season would also be a factor, especially in Laine’s case where he’ll be due a substantial raise.

LeBrun feels both clubs could wait until the summer to sort out these situations. However, he doesn’t rule out one or both considering a move at the April 12 trade deadline if they’re out of playoff contention by then.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hunker down, folks, you’re going to be hearing a lot of media chatter this season over Laine and Dubois in the rumor mill. And for good reason. Both are talented young players who’ve yet to reach their playing prime. Every team in the league would love to have them on their rosters. Only a handful, however, will have the roster need, the tradeable assets and the cap space to acquire them.

We can’t rule out an in-season trade of Laine and/or Dubois but it seems unlikely. They’re invaluable right now to their respective clubs’ playoff hopes this year. Their salaries and the high number of clubs with limited cap room likely means it’ll take a dollar-for-dollar swap to make it happen. That could prove tricky to do even at the trade deadline.

Offseason moves seem more likely at this point. That’s when more clubs are willing to deal and usually have more cap space to work with. The flat cap for next season will remain an issue but there could be a few more teams with cap space and the willingness to make it happen.