This may seem crazy, but if the Winnipeg Jets are willing to work out a large deal within the Central Division, the St. Louis Blues should give them a call.
Patrik Laine has tons of talent but isn’t producing to his capability with the Jets. He could use a change of scenery – despite the Jets being a contending club, something isn’t working. It could be Laine’s fault, but it could be worth dealing him before his value drops.
Add Him to Top-6 Forward Group Instantly
Laine would be a huge player to add with Vladimir Tarasenko likely missing a large part of the 2020-21 season. He would instantly be inserted onto one of the top two lines with either Brayden Schenn and Jaden Schwartz or Ryan O’Reilly and David Perron.
Laine showed noticeable improvements in his 200-foot game last season. He’s now not only a sniper, he can be a two-way forward that is solid enough to play more important minutes.
He has played with some great centers in his career to this point – that wouldn’t change if he came to St. Louis. Schenn and O’Reilly are both excellent.
Cap Hit Isn’t All That Bad
One of the key factors to a Laine deal for the Blues is the cap situation. If Tarasenko is out for a long time as is expected, they could likely fit it in. I assume Alex Pietrangelo would have to leave in free agency for this deal to work.
Laine has one year left on his contract before he becomes an RFA (restricted free agent). His current cap hit is sitting at $6.75 million.
His cap hit now is lower than that of Tarasenko, which is $7.5 million.The Blues would have to put him on long-term injured reserve (LTIR) if they want to use the cap space for Laine, but it could become complicated after that.
They would have to find a way to fix the defense if Pietrangelo leaves – adding Laine doesn’t do that obviously.
Can Laine Return to Form in St. Louis?
While he became a more complete player in 2019-20, Laine’s goalscoring potential remains through the roof. He had 28 of them in 2019-20, in 68 games. That is a good number, but he can get better than that.
Laine needs to be a 40-plus goal scorer every season. Playing with good centers is one step, but he has to take it upon himself to get more goals. The talent is there, but talent can only take you so far. He is only 22, so he has time, but he is going into a contract year in 2020-21, so the Blues could get the best NHL version of him.
One would think that Laine should become a better player and reach his potential playing with winners. Not to say the Jets aren’t winners, but the Blues are one season removed from a Stanley Cup championship.
What Could an Offer to the Jets Look Like?
Despite Laine only having a year left on his current contract, he’s an RFA after this season so the Blues would have to pay a high price. There is also the factor of them being in the same division with the Jets, which could up the price even more. Here’s what I came up with:
|Blues Receive:||Jets Receive:|
|RW Patrik Laine (1 yr remaining, $6.750M)||LW Jaden Schwartz (1 yr remaining, $5.350M)|
|2022 3rd Round Pick (WPG)||RW Austin Poganski|
|2021 1st Round Pick (STL)|
|2022 3rd Round Pick (STL)
In this deal, the Blues give up a lot but get a good return if Laine works out. Giving up Schwartz would be a tough move to make, as he fits into the way the Blues play so well. Poganski is a solid prospect and played one game in the 2019-20 season, but he likely won’t have a role with the Blues for a while.
I’d prefer the Blues don’t move a first-round pick, but in this instance, they have to. The clubs would swap third-round picks from 2022, assuming the Jets could have a better spot, it’d be good for the Blues. Overall, this deal could be the beginning stages of talks, if they ever happen.
It’s unlikely that either of these teams ever makes a trade of this caliber, but it’s fun to speculate and think about. The Blues could use an explosive young star like Laine, and the Jets could use a gritty veteran like Schwartz.
It will be interesting to see if this deal ever becomes a rumor or possibility. An important offseason lies ahead for the Blues, and big decisions remain for general manager Doug Armstrong.