Professional sports are like a soap opera that never ends. Each week seems to bring new developments of unarrest and players becoming unhappy with where they are in a team’s depth chart or a lack of motion on an extension. In recent weeks, we’ve seen the Flames organization seemingly implode, with all these players rumored to be asking to move away from the organization.
This week, the unhappy player in the news is former second-overall pick Patrik Laine of the Columbus Blue Jackets. The 25-year-old was healthy scratched after a rather dismal start to the season playing as a center for the Blue Jackets. Laine is naturally a right winger, and said that the scratching was “the most embarrassing thing to ever happen” to him. He also admitted that he is unhappy about the situation, leading many to wonder if the Finn could be on the move.
As a natural right wing, a fit could be argued for a team like the New York Rangers. You may immediately recoil at the idea, but there’s a potential fit. He’s a goal-scoring right winger capable of playing top six minutes. He is a player tailor-made to address the biggest issue on the Rangers roster, and it would be irresponsible not to look at how this could work.
The biggest issue here for the Rangers is Laine’s deal. He’s in the second year of a deal that sees him make $8.7 million yearly. With a little over a million dollars in projected cap space right now, even the idea of funneling Laine through an off-shore oil rig would not allow the Rangers to get under the hard cap with Laine on the team. So, there would have to be pieces moving the other way to make this work.
For the Rangers to facilitate something like this, another team must take on half of the remainder of Laine’s deal. This would lower his cap hit to $4.35 million a year. Finding someone that is willing to do that for three years could be difficult and will cost something expensive. They are probably looking at a 1st round pick plus just to find someone to take on some of this salary.
On top of that, someone like Barclay Goodrow would likely have to go out the door, too. As he makes north of $3 million, the Rangers would likely need to move him to accommodate Laine if this was to happen. Given the start to the season and the injuries, you won’t move Trocheck, Chytil, Panarin or Kreider. Zibanejad’s deal is probably unmoveable anyway. Fox and Trouba aren’t going anywhere, leaving only Goodrow as a realistic option. Whether in the deal or elsewhere doesn’t really matter.
The Rangers would have to offer this to make the Jackets think about it. This will seem expensive to Ranger fans and inexpensive to Jackets fans. First of all, yes, this is a lot. But Laine could score 50 goals with linemates that can create. Putting him with Mika and Kreider could fix the problems the duo has undergone to this point in the season.
For the Jackets fans looking at this and thinking I’m delusional, Laine’s trade value has not been lower in his career. Publicly unhappy and healthy scratched does not look good on the outside. Combine that with his incredibly slow start to the season, and you can see why this may not be the most valuable asset at the moment.
As for San Jose, I’m purely using them as a placeholder. Any team willing to retain on Laine could be involved. It works from a cap perspective and would improve the roster. The issue then becomes is damaging the farm to that extent worth it for the immediate chance to win the Stanley Cup in the coming years? Well, that would be up to you to decide.