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Pay the man

It would be hard for a team like the Columbus Blue Jackets to overpay a guy like Patrik Laine.

When the Columbus Blue Jackets shipped Pierre-Luc Dubois and a third round pick to the Winnipeg Jets for Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic, many understood that it may take some time to determine who won that trade. In reality, there may never be a clear winner. One thing has become clear, however. It’s time to back up the Brink’s truck for Patrik Laine.

To say that Laine’s first season in Columbus was a disaster may be a bit of an understatement. The former 44 goal scorer managed only 10 goals and 21 points in the 2020-2021 season. There were many goals against while the Finn was on the ice and the prolific scorer found himself pinned to the bench on several occasions. The frustration was palpable, the tension with the coaching staff obvious, and the disappointment from the GM’s office imaginable.

Enter 2021-2022.

Laine got off to a hot start before suffering an injury in Colorado on November 3rd. He had scored three goals and notched seven assists in only nine games. He looked like a difference maker and a completely different player. He was developing chemistry with Jakub Voracek and Boone Jenner, a line that looked dangerous at even strength.

Columbus Blue Jackets v Carolina Hurricanes Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images

After battling injury and mourning the death of his father, he returned on December 30th against Nashville. He scored a goal in that game, but then only managed three points over the next eleven games. This left fans and pundits wondering who the real Patrik Laine was — at least the one wearing a Columbus sweater. Could he return to early season form or was the hot streak just an anomaly?

Well, the light has turned back on for Patrik Laine. As of this writing, the Finn is on an eight game point streak in which he’s scored ten goals and added six assists. With 16 goals and 15 assists in 29 games this season, he’s playing at a 45 goal, point per game pace (over a full 82 games). Sure, goal scorers are streaky and Laine has had his share of droughts, but these guys don’t grow on trees. Since his rookie season in 2016-2017, Laine is currently tied at eighth for most goals in the league.

There’s been trade talk and questions about whether another star player will want to leave Columbus. The long-term signing of Zach Werenski should have put an end to those kinds of rumors, but that talk will swirl nonetheless. Would the return be sizeable if Laine were traded? You bet. Could a top six center be part of the return? Possibly. Should a trade be on the table if Laine is interested in a long-term contract with the Blue Jackets? Absolutely not.

The chances of the Blue Jackets landing another scorer like Laine in the draft, in a trade, or in free agency are incredibly slim. The age of the player should also be considered. This isn’t your typical RFA to UFA situation where the player is going on 27 years old. Patrik Laine is only 23 years old. A six or seven year contract gets you a star player in his prime and sets the player up to get another hefty contract when the former expires. It’s a win-win.

So what would it take? $8 million per year? $9 million? A lifetime supply of flashy suits and fuzzy slippers? The real answer is whatever it takes (within reason, obviously). Don’t be reckless, but don’t burn bridges either. This team has the cap space, other young players to build around, and more futures on the way. But you won’t find another Patrik Laine, so make it happen.

Pay the man.

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