Red Wings Should Pursue Trade For Patrik Laine

The Hockey Writers

Former Detroit general manager – and current Edmonton Oilers GM – Ken Holland made the term “kick the tires” quite popular during his 22 years at the helm in Motown. He often used it to refer to free-agent signings or possible trades that would help bolster the club.

This phrase is still in play as current Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman looks to improve a roster that just (barely) missed the playoffs for a franchise record eighth consecutive season. Yzerman will have his hands full this summer, and he’ll be harsh on those rubber wheels this offseason.

It’s no secret that Detroit needs to add talent to their top six, and it just so happens that a “star caliber” player has hit the trade market. Columbus Blue Jackets forward Patrik Laine recently requested another “fresh start.” TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported this week that the Finnish sniper is looking for a change of scenery and that management will try to accommodate him. Is this someone that fits the bill for Yzerman? I think those “tires” should be warned ahead of time.

Patrik Laine Columbus Blue Jackets
Patrik Laine, Columbus Blue Jackets (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Laine has always been a polarizing figure. Drafted second overall by the Winnipeg Jets in 2016 – one pick after Auston Matthews – the winger burst onto the scene during his rookie campaign, posting 36 goals and 28 assists at the age of 18. He followed that up with 44 goals and 26 assists in his sophomore season and was considered one of the league’s brightest young stars.

But his career has been on a downward trajectory ever since. Injuries and rumors of an attitude problem have plagued Laine during his eight-year NHL career. Laine wanted out of Winnipeg, and the 6-foot-5, 205-pound forward was dealt – along with right-winger Jack Roslovic – to Columbus during the 2020-21 season for Pierre-Luc Dubois and a 2022 third-round draft pick. It was a fresh start for Laine – at 22 years old – and the Blue Jackets were hopeful that they had found their franchise superstar.

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But Laine’s time in a Blue Jackets uniform didn’t go as planned. He has never reached the 30-goal mark with the team and injuries, once again, became a problem – he has appeared in just 174 games during his four years in Ohio, posting an underwhelming 134 points during that span.

This season was the most trying for Laine as he entered the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program. Stephen Whyno from the Associated Press said this about Laine’s decision to seek help: “The 25-year-old from Finland explained his absence in a social media post, thanking the team, league and fans for their understanding and support and saying he looks forward to ‘returning to the ice with a clear mind and renewed energy’” (from ‘Columbus forward Patrik Laine enters the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program,’ Associated Press, Jan. 28, 2024).

Now, it appears that Laine is on the move again, and Yzerman and the Red Wings should be interested, especially since the cost might not be that high. Laine is under contract for two more seasons with a cap hit of $8.7 million, not chump change for a team that is looking to lock up their franchise cornerstones – defenseman Moritz Seider and forward Lucas Raymond – to long-term deals this summer.

Columbus would have to retain salary, but I don’t think the asking price for Laine is close to what the Carolina Hurricanes are asking for pending restricted free agent Martin Necas. Laine still has the skillset and could be worth the gamble, especially given that he fits Detroit’s timeline to compete.

Laine the Sniper

Laine has one of the most lethal shots in hockey. His wicked one-timer still strikes fear into opposing goalies, and 40-goal scorers don’t grow on trees – he accomplished that by the age of 20. While his time with the Jets and Blue Jackets could be a cause for concern, he is only 26. Could Yzerman help turn things around for the talented Finn?

Steve Yzerman Detroit Red Wings
Steve Yzerman, General Manager of the Detroit Red Wings (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Detroit may be a little cautious after the Jakub Vrana ordeal; the skilled Czech forward was acquired at the trade deadline from the Washington Capitals during the 2020-21 season and turned out to be a disaster for the organization. While they are two different situations, management might still feel the sting. But it’s possible a change of scenery and a more structured system could unlock Laine’s potential. Is it worth the risk? It depends on the asking price.

Cost to Acquire Laine

I’m not expecting an overwhelming haul for Columbus. Laine’s value is at an all-time low, but he has the potential to pay big dividends if Detroit can unlock his talent. Would I give up a first-round pick for Laine? No – especially not with the 15th overall selection in this year’s draft.

What if a bottom-six roster player, a decent defensive prospect, and a future draft pick, based on Laine’s performance, could get a deal done? I think that’s reasonable, but would Columbus feel the same way? It’s hard to say. GMs will do their due diligence on Laine’s status. But we have to believe there is some interest for a young, former 40-goal sniper.

Trade Proposal for Laine

If I were Yzerman, I’d be lacing up the boots and starting to stretch. Tires are in for a beating this summer. All 32 GMs would be failing at their jobs if they didn’t at least find out the asking price. To be clear, Yzermand shouldn’t give up a haul for Laine’s services, but for the right price, he should be all in. My proposal: Jonatan Berggren, William Wallinder, and a future third-round pick (to become second based on performance).

A healthy, clear-headed Laine could have a major impact on the Red Wings’ rebuild. I think that deal is easily worth the risk. Let me know what you think in the comments below.

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