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No, the Philadelphia Flyers should not trade for Patrik Laine

(Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

According to a report from TSN hockey insider Pierre LeBrun, Columbus Blue Jackets forward Patrik Laine is looking for a “fresh start” and wants out of Ohio’s capital city.

Laine is entering the third year of a four-year, $34.8 million contract ($8.7M AAV) that carries a modified no-trade clause, which means Laine has to submit a 10-team no-trade list to the Blue Jackets.

If the Philadelphia Flyers are a team that Laine isn’t opposed to joining, general manager Daniel Brière should be the one to say no and not offer a deal to the Blue Jackets.

Yes, Laine has a reputation of being an elite goal-scorer and would be a welcomed addition if the Flyers were in a more ideal situation, but those two things just aren’t a reality right now. After registering 36 goals in his rookie season, a career-high 44 goals in 2018, and 30 goals in 2019, the former 2016 second overall pick hasn’t scored more than 26 goals since leaving Winnipeg. Laine posted just 10 goals in 46 games during the abbreviated 2020-21 season, 26 goals in 56 games in 2021-22, 22 goals in 55 games in 2022-23, and just 6 goals in 18 games this past season. He just isn’t the same player he was at the beginning of his career.

Another tidbit you probably noticed in there is his lack of availability. Laine played 305 of 317 possible regular season contests between 2016-17 and 2019-20, but since then he has only appeared in 175 of 302 games since 2020-21. That being said, Laine did enter the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program this season on January 28th, which is why he missed a solid chunk of this season and that’s totally fine. If you want to throw away this season, he still only played in 156 of 220 games between 2020-21 and 2022-23.

Laine’s contract is also a cause for concern. While there’s not much term left on it, the $8.7M cap hit is alarming. The Flyers can’t fit that deal into their plans for this season unless they place Ryan Ellis on LTIR, even if the Blue Jackets retained salary. If you remember last season, the Flyers didn’t place Ellis on LTIR until past the trade deadline and they were able to weaponize their prior cap space to gain assets and worked their way through other roster transactions just fine. Even if they do place Ellis on LTIR earlier this year, the Flyers should still use that freed up space that to their advantage to gain other valuable assets – see the Noah Hanifin trade – and if they didn’t do that when they’re in an identical situation as last season, it would be foolish.

That being said, the Flyers with Ellis’ contract cleared away would only have $7,053,572, according to CapFriendly, to fit Laine at a reduced cost and still find a way to qualify and sign pending restricted free agents Bobby Brink, Egor Zamula, Adam Ginning, Mason Millman, and Will Zmolek; which they’ll have enough trouble with anyway as they only have $803,572 of room without anyone on LTIR.

One final aspect to look at is who’s coaching the team. John Tortorella was Laine’s first coach in Columbus and the two butted heads before, highlighted by the veteran coach benching the winger at one point.

Through a translation from The Columbus Dispatch, “I guess everyone must have rules, but of course, you always hope that you will be able to use your strengths,” Laine told Finnish publication Aamulehti back in 2021. “Tortorella did not give freedom to anyone. Forwards want to create offensively. You have to ‘cheat’ a bit if you want to become a goal king. It is not possible if the coaches think differently. But I do as they tell me.

“I understand the need for a tight system, but all players are different. I do not even want to be like everyone else. I am who I am and do things my way. Everyone should be given the opportunity to be themselves. Then, of course, you have to play within the team’s system. I think it’s stupid not to use my potential. But then it’s another matter what the coaches think.”

And for the issues Laine had with Tortorella that may raise your eyebrows and have you worried that talent wouldn’t want to play here because of him, I’d point you to the growth that younger players like Tyson Foerster, Morgan Frost, Cam York, Owen Tippett, and Joel Farabee have experienced under Tortorella. Even veterans like Travis Konecny, Cam Atkinson, and Travis Sanheim have unleashed their best selves under Tortorella in their careers. The positives far outweigh the negatives, and Tortorella figures to be a vital member of the Flyers for years to come as well.

If a deal were to somehow happen, however, what would the Flyers give up? Would they trade a younger winger like Farabee? Would they trade draft capital? Would it be worth it for a 26-year-old reclamation project while they’re in a rebuild? Likely not.

Given their situation, the Flyers shouldn’t be actively trading away assets for a player like Laine, especially given his salary. If the Flyers were better positioned to compete or Laine made less money, then it would certainly more feasible. But it just isn’t an attractive scenario at the moment.

Managing Editor at Flyers Nation. Proud lifelong supporter of the Philadelphia Flyers and all things hockey related. Steve Mason's #1 fan.

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