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Penguins Trade Opportunity: Pounce on Patrik Laine



Pittsburgh Penguins trade talk, Patrik Laine

Pittsburgh Penguins president of hockey operations/GM Kyle Dubas is no dummy. He likes to play the odds and find values that others missed. Last summer, he flexed some creative deal-making when he swiped the reigning Norris Trophy winner for a package of players and picks far below market value.

C’mon, regardless of Erik Karlsson’s first season with the Penguins, giving up only a first- and second-round pick for the top defenseman while trading Mikael Granlund and Jeff Petry without spending additional assets was a brilliant stroke. The NHL trade rumors never predicted the comparatively paltry overall value of what the Penguins sent away for Karlsson.

It was a near-perfect trade. In fact, Dubas seemed to hint after the deal that he was prepared to buy out Granlund if a deal wasn’t reached.

Guess what? Dubas has another opportunity to do the same this summer, acquiring top talent while shedding valuable but unwanted assets and a minimal expenditure of future assets. However, this time, it will be the mirror opposite. It won’t be an older player at the top of his game but a younger player who hit the bottom.

Patrik Laine.

NHL trade rumors, Patrik Laine

The 26-year-old pure sniper right wing has not flourished with the Columbus Blue Jackets. A brave trip through the NHL Players’ Assistance program washed away most of this season, and he scored nine points in 18 games. In parts of four seasons with Columbus, he has just 64 goals in 174 games.

In his first five seasons with the Winnipeg Jets, Laine sprang for 140 goals over 304 games. He can shoot like few in the game and has three 30-plus goal seasons on his resume, including 44 in 2017-18.

It’s been a while since Laine was the top sniper in the NHL, but he has the talent. And it would seem he again has the desire after completing the program. This week, he and his agent discussed a trade out of Columbus for Laine to get a fresh start elsewhere.

Dubas said last week at the NHL Draft Combine that his goal was to urgently stockpile picks and prospects while Sidney Crosby and the Penguins core were still around to mentor the young players. While acquiring Laine might run counter to that ambition, it may not do so destructively, and it may provide the Penguins with an opportunity to again part with superfluous veterans.

Just like the Karlsson deal.

Penguins Trade Fit

Sure, there are more glamorous cities than Pittsburgh without high-pressure media throngs. Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago spring to mind, and there’s no doubt a few of those teams would be interested in the Finnish winger, but those cities are probably not the best places for Laine to continue his recovery.

The Penguins would be an ideal landing spot. There is enough Pittsburgh nightlife to be interesting for a 26-year-old but not so much as to be problematic. There’s enough boisterous fan support to make showing up for work fun, but not the oppressive Canadian glare.

Oh, and the Penguins have what the player needs: leadership and a couple of centers who can deliver scoring chances on a silver platter.

In fairness to Columbus, the team’s biggest deficiency is a top-shelf playmaking center, and Laine has even been forced to play center during his time there. That’s like using a Ferrari as a grocery-getter.

There would be no such positional miscasting with the Penguins, and he would not have the burden of carrying the team. Sidney Crosby and a few others already carry that weight.

Just get open and shoot, kid.

The benefits of a Laine trade to Pittsburgh could be far-reaching for both sides. While the Penguins don’t necessarily need a RW, moving Rickard Rakell to the left side, thus creating a top-six spot, would be easy enough. Laine’s big frame (6-foot-5, 216 pounds) lends itself to playing in the low zone, which he can do well, further adding to the Penguins’ lurch for gritty goal-line play.

And Laine’s elite shot could have coaches salivating to put him on the Penguins’ power play. Laine’s right-handed stick would be a perfect target for Kris Letang and Erik Karlsson on either power-play unit.

You may have heard the Penguins need power play help, yes?

Laine’s trade value will never be lower, making him affordable to the Penguins. His sagging numbers, missed season, and trade request means Columbus doesn’t have much leverage–similar to the San Jose Sharks in the Karlsson trade.

Contractually, Laine carries an $8.7 million cap hit for two more seasons, so any experiment or investment that goes sideways will not harm the franchise long-term. More likely, it could provide that scoring jolt and power play help the team desperately needs. And if Dubas can work the situation to his advantage, the Penguins have a couple of contracts they’d probably like to get rid of … again.

For context, if Dubas included Reilly Smith in such a Penguins trade, the team would add only $3.7 million to their payroll. It’s probably a stretch to think the Penguins could include Ryan Graves, but even if the team sacrificed Rakell, they would have at least $6 million to spend on free agents.

Of course, any trade will cost more than “all of our bad players for all of your good players.” In such a scenario, the Penguins might be forced to sacrifice high picks and/or top prospects, such as Owen Pickering or Villie Koivunen, in addition to NHL talent.

Former Carolina Hurricanes president of hockey operations/GM Don Waddel is the new GM in Columbus. Perhaps he’d like back one of the prospects he used to acquire Jake Guentzel for Carolina? Obviously, if Dubas and Wadell can make one deal, they can make two.

Once again, opportunity is knocking to remake the Pittsburgh Penguins roster with a buy-low trade. Dubas should pounce.