Next steps in expected Patrik Laine trade from Blue Jackets

NHL: Seattle Kraken at Columbus Blue Jackets
Credit: Jason Mowry-USA TODAY Sports

After coming to a mutual agreement to part ways, Patrik Laine and the Columbus Blue Jackets are working through the next steps toward getting a deal done with another team. For newly hired general manager Don Waddell, it is a tricky road to navigate.

“We’re still working with his agent,” Waddell explained Thursday. “He’s still in the (NHL/NHLPA player assistance) program. Once he gets out, we expect any day or sometime soon, teams I’ve talked about, they want to talk to him. It’s too early to say about money. Our hope is we wouldn’t have to hold money.”

Well, that’s a lot to unpack.

To start, Laine remains in the program, which he entered Jan. 28 in an effort to work on his mental health. So, until he is out of the program, the workings of a potential trade are on hold. However, as Waddell mentioned, he should be out in the near future.

Once Laine is eligible to be traded, there are more hoops to jump through. There are several teams rumored to have inquired about Laine, but his $8.7 million salary cap hit for the next two seasons is something that not many are willing to take on. Waddell does not want to retain any of the salary, which makes the deal much more complicated. However, that could be a smokescreen. Columbus has $23.775 million in projected cap space, so it easily could facilitate a trade, and get a better return, by retaining salary.

If a team wants to acquire Laine with salary retention, it is going to have to come at a cost for Waddell to say yes. Should a team far below the salary cap inquire, say the San Jose Sharks, Chicago Blackhawks or perhaps the Utah Hockey Club, the deal becomes less complex.

One thing is clear, Waddell is taking his time with this trade.

“We want to make a hockey trade if we can, and we will certainly exhaust every opportunity and every team that potentially has interest in it,” the GM said.

Related: NHL trade grades: Kings, Capitals swap Pierre-Luc Dubois, Darcy Kuemper

Trading Patrik Laine will take time for Blue Jackets

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Toronto Maple Leafs
Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Teams that are interested in the 26-year-old forward will be taking a risk in pursuing him. Laine has been hampered by injuries in recent years, and after taking time away from the game, may not produce at his former 70-point pace.

Or, the time off and the work in the NHLPA program could come as a benefit to his game, allowing him to come back fresh, healthy, and in the right frame of mind.

Laine hasn’t played a full 82-game season since 2018-19, when he registered 50 points. However, he notched 52 points in 55 games just two seasons ago. Trading for him could pay off in a large way if he can stay healthy and find that pace once again, or, it could be a lot of money spent on a lack of production.

Laine does have 204 goals and 388 points in 480 NHL games.

One certainty is that Laine will be suiting up for a new team at the start of the 2024-25 season. There is interest from around the League, but there is still a ways to go before any deal will be in place.

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