A marksman may be on the market.
One of the NHL’s true snipers, Patrik Laine, is expected to be in play this offseason as the Winnipeg Jets explore avenues to fill holes on their blueline and down the middle.
The mere mention of Laine joining TSN’s first Trade Bait board of the fall is enough to trigger wounds that still haven’t healed for Winnipeggers of a certain generation from the 1996 trade of the Finnish Flash, Teemu Selanne.
One of the great goal scorers of all time, Selanne collected 147 goals in three and a half seasons as a Jet.
The Jets’ 2.0 version of the Flash, fellow Finn Laine has 138 goals through four seasons, tied for seventh most across the NHL since he entered the league as an 18-year-old.
By no means is Laine a lock to be traded. Free agency will be one road for the Jets to attempt to fill the crater left by Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Myers, Jacob Trouba and Ben Chiarot on the backend since last offseason.
That will be a challenge for Winnipeg, even with money to spend, and only a few true standouts ever make it to market.
That leaves Laine (or fellow winger Nikolaj Ehlers, also on the Trade Bait board) as perhaps the most logical deductions from a Winnipeg trade chip perspective because the Jets are unlikely to move Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler or Kyle Connor – who scored 10 more goals than Laine this season.
Ehlers is more versatile than Laine in the lineup, and though he’s two years older, he is signed to a reasonable $6 million annual contract through the 2024-25 season.
Laine, 22, is set to enter the final year of his bridge deal at $6.75 million. He is going to be due a payday – whether it’s a seven-figure or eight-figure AAV might depend on this season – and the Jets may or may not be the team to give it to him.
Laine’s season-by-season goal totals stand at 36, 44, 30 and 33 (pro-rated total over 79 games for 2019-20). He has not been quite as electrifying since that 44-goal season, but it isn’t often that a sniper of Laine’s ilk becomes available. The Jets would need to make it count.
Selanne was dealt for defenceman Oleg Tverdovsky and forward Chad Kilger, who was the No. 4 overall pick from the previous draft. Selanne went on to post five more seasons of at least 50 goals.
A team like the Carolina Hurricanes, with an embarrassment of riches on the backend, would make for an interesting trade partner. Up front, the Hurricanes could make an all-Finn line of Laine with World Junior-winning teammate Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen.
Jaccob Slavin is the only player close to an untouchable on Carolina’s backend. Dougie Hamilton (No. 20) makes the Trade Bait board because he is also due an extension, heading into the final year of his $5.75 million contract. He could follow the trend of the past two offseasons, when the Canes dealt Elias Lindholm and Justin Faulk before skating into the last season of their deals when it became clear negotiations were not on the same page.
Elsewhere, three prominent goaltenders – Stanley Cup winners Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury, plus Maple Leafs netminder Frederik Andersen – can be added to the pile of goalies up for grabs on the free agent market. This off-season will be like a game of Musical Crease instead of Musical Chairs.
Coyotes defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson (No. 4) was due a $4 million signing bonus from Arizona on Tuesday, as confirmed by TSN’s David Alter, and so any team potentially acquiring the Yotes’ captain will have their bill lightened.
Vince Dunn is one option for the Blues to move if they can come to terms with their captain, Alex Pietrangelo. Also, Alex Killorn is representative of one of the pieces that the Lightning will be forced to move this offseason because of the frozen salary cap. Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Yanni Gourde are also possibilities, but Killorn is the only player with a limited no-trade clause. The other three have full no-trades, even though those clauses rarely block a deal.
With 24 teams in tinkering mode, last week was one of the busiest in months for NHL GMs working the phones.
Here is the first TSN Trade Bait board of the offseason, where the ranking always seeks to blend a player’s prominence with his likelihood of a trade:
1. Matt Murray, PIT
2. James van Riemsdyk, PHI
3. Josh Anderson, CBJ
4. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, ARI
5. Patrik Laine, WPG
6. Shayne Gostisbehere, PHI
7. Kyle Palmieri, NJD
8. Max Domi, MTL
9. Marc-Andre Fleury, VGK
10. Kris Letang, PIT
11. Ryan Dzingel, CAR
12. Nikolaj Ehlers, WPG
13. Vince Dunn, STL
14. Alex Killorn, TBL
15. Adam Larsson, EDM
16. Jared McCann, PIT
17. Andreas Johnsson, TOR
18. Rasmus Ristolainen, BUF
19. Frederik Andersen, TOR
20. Dougie Hamilton, CAR
Contact Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @frank_seravalli