Why Rangers should pass on Patrik Laine trade

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Columbus Blue Jackets
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers continue to seek a right wing to play on their top line with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. And now, word is that Patrik Laine and the Columbus Blue Jackets are working together to arrange his exit there.

Trading for Laine is something the Rangers have to consider.

When healthy, Laine is a high-scoring right wing, one with 204 goals and 388 points in 480 NHL games with the Winnipeg Jets and Blue Jackets. Close your eyes and picture how many goals he could score as a shoot-first wing with Zibanejad and Kreider. It’s enticing, isn’t it?

That’d be three 40-goal scorers on one line. Laine scored 44 goals with the Jets in 2017-18; Zibanejad had 41 (in 57 games!) in 2019-20; and Kreider scored 52 in 2021-22. Add to the mix that the Rangers also have Artemi Panarin, who scored 49 goals this past season, and, well, yeah, that’s a very potent top six.

Laine is still only 26 years old, too. Plus he has a history with Rangers captain Jacob Trouba from their days in Winnipeg together, presumably a good one. And he’s not Jack Roslovic, another positive.

So, there are many things to like about Laine playing for the Rangers.

However, there are too many red flags for the Rangers to comfortably make a trade for the sniper from Finland.

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Rangers should pass on Patrik Laine, who’s seeking a trade from the Blue Jackets

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Anaheim Ducks
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s start with health. In recent years, Laine has rarely been healthy. He played 56 games in 2021-22, 55 the next season and only 16 this past season. He had a fractured clavicle that ruined a fast start and then missed the rest of the 2023-24 season after entering the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program.

So, that’s plenty of baggage to take on if you’re the Rangers. Can he keep up physically? And, though Laine should be applauded for taking the proper steps to get his life back in order, where is his headspace at? Would the pressure of playing for a major-market team solely focused on winning the Stanley Cup be good or not so good for Laine?

That’s a key question, especially for a player who has already sought a trade from each of the teams he’s played for in the NHL. That’s another red flag of sorts.

Then there’s the cost of acquiring him. First, he has two years at $8.7 million per left on his contract. The Rangers would need the Blue Jackets to retain half of that, which they could do being $23.775 million under the salary cap. But then there’s an additional cost to the Rangers in terms of draft picks or prospects headed to the Blue Jackets. Not only would New York be paying a significant price for Laine, but the cost would go up because the Blue Jackets retained salary.

We saw ahead of the 2024 trade deadline that general manager Chris Drury is loathe to give up top prospects in a trade, not to mention New York’s first-round pick.

Of course, if the price isn’t exorbitant for some reason and Drury can get a clear handle on how Laine is progressing with his program, then the Rangers could swoop in and make what would be their marquee deal of this offseason. Again, when healthy, Laine is a handful with six 20-goal seasons, including 26 in those 56 games two seasons ago.

But assuming all those stars don’t perfectly align, it’d be best for the Rangers to take a pass on Laine.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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