The Philadelphia Flyers might get a little bit more Finnish over the next week. According to The Athletic’s Pierre Lebrun, the Flyers and the Winnipeg Jets have held discussions over a possible trade that would see winger Patrik Laine on his way to Philadelphia.
The 22-year-old has found himself lost in the shuffle, as other forwards such as Nikolaj Ehlers and Kyle Connor have overstepped him in the depth chart for the Jets. With just one year remaining on his two-year bridge deal that holds a cap hit of $6.75-million, the sniper will only get more expensive.
Winnipeg has a total of 10 players on their NHL roster that are pending unrestricted free agents and four restricted free agents, with only $14-million in cap space — GM Kevin Cheveldayoff might have his busiest offseason yet.
This level of flexibility and uncertainty leaves the Jets in a tight spot with Laine. He is going to get a substantial bump in pay and will only leave his current team wanting more cap space to fill out the roster. With this in mind, it makes sense to take some calls on the player and the Flyers appear to be the frontrunners in terms of such calls.
What can Laine bring to the Flyers?
Laine has been heralded as the next elite goalscorer ever since the Jets drafted him second overall in 2016. His ability to get into his spot and rifle the puck behind the opposing goaltender has been well documented.
Through 305 games, the 22-year-old has scored a total of 138 goals, with 52 of them coming on the man advantage. That’s nothing to scoff at, but his play away from the puck has been heavily criticized in just the four years he’s been in the league.
Although he is reportedly working towards becoming a complete player, the results have not shown that ability quite yet. This past season, Laine posted an on-ice 46.9 CF% at 5-on-5. That’s good for 16th on the Jets and 531st among all skaters with at least 200 minutes at even-strength.
While he might not control the play like some of the best in the league, he is still able to score goals at an insane rate and that can be extremely valuable to a club like the Flyers.
Although the Flyers were able to earn their way into the upper echelon of teams in the standings this regular season and score the eighth-most goals in the league at all situations, they could still use a pure sniper like Laine. Someone on the powerplay that you can lean on and know that you will be a threat no matter what.
With the flat cap ceiling causing hurt across the league, squeezing the ever-living hell out of contracts and getting value out of your players, has never been more important.
As it stands, the Flyers will be able to bring in Laine’s $6.75-million cap hit without having to unload any contracts, assuming that Matt Niskanen and his $5.75-million are on their way out due to his retirement. It will be tight — the Flyers have roughly $8.65-million in cap space sans Niskanen — but they will be able to get it done even with Philippe Myers and Nolan Patrick needing new contracts.
Looking into the crystal ball, or scrolling to the right on Capfriendly, you can assume there will be an upcoming cap crunch if Laine becomes a Flyer this offseason. Both Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux are in need of new deals after the 2021-22 season and Travis Sanheim will be a restricted free agent after next season. Unless some top-tier prospects on entry-level contracts play significant roles on the future Flyers, they could have themselves a slight problem balancing the books.
I am certainly not one that enjoys hypothesizing trades, but I will make an exception because Laine in Philadelphia would just be so fun.
Winnipeg is in desperate need of a second-line center and a top-four defenceman — like pretty much every single team in the NHL — and the Flyers have the latter in Sanheim. A good ol’ Winnipeg boy would be welcomed with open arms and can solve some problems on their blue line.
Whether it’s worth letting go the 24-year-old for a flashy Finnish product, is ultimately unclear. Receiving a bonafide scorer that still has time on his side is tantalizing and with some defencemen coming through the prospect pipeline, it could make sense in the grand scheme of things.
One thing is for certain though, having Laine on this team would be fun as hell.