While the Winnipeg Jets have a situation on their hands with Pierre-Luc Dubois and his reported desire to test free agency in two years, the Columbus Blue Jackets aren’t facing a similar issue with the main player they received in the Dubois trade: Patrik Laine. According to Aaron Portzline of The Athletic, Laine’s camp and the Blue Jackets “communicate every few days” in “amicable” negotiations focused on finding a long-term deal for Laine. (subscription link) While Portzline does note that the negotiations aren’t “anywhere close,” and that negotiations “may take a while,” there is a desire from both parties to get a long-term extension done regardless of where the exact negotiations might be at this point in time.
For the Blue Jackets, their desire to extend Laine is entirely understandable. When he was healthy, Laine was a dynamic offensive force the type of scorer the Blue Jackets haven’t had in their lineup since Artemi Panarin’s two-year stay in Columbus. Laine had 26 goals and 56 points in 56 games in 2021-22 and showed the kind of elite scoring ability that got him drafted second overall in 2016. Perhaps most importantly, Laine produced at a point-per-game rate without having an elite center to rely on, highlighting his abilities as a play-driving winger and helping dispel the notion that he is simply a streaky, perimeter-shooting passenger winger. The Blue Jackets clearly believe they have a player to build around in the 24-year-old Laine and getting him inked to any sort of remotely reasonable long-term extension would be a major win for Jarmo Kekalainen’s front office.
Now, for some other notes regarding Metropolitan Division teams:
- The New Jersey Devils hold the number-two pick at next week’s draft, but that’s not where they’re devoting all of their offseason focus. The team’s biggest need this summer is to add to their goaltending, and one could make the argument that it was the single biggest factor that kept the team from playing meaningful games last spring. Many have speculated that the Devils would go after this summer’s biggest names in net, such as Darcy Kuemper, Jack Campbell, or even John Gibson, and we now know a more specific name the Devils could be targeting. Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet writes in his latest 32 Thoughts blog that the Devils are “expected to be in” the conversation for pending free agent goaltender Ville Husso. Friedman notes that the Devils’ goalie coach, Dave Rogalski, knows Husso well from his time in a similar role for the AHL’s old San Antonio Rampage, and that connection could be the Devils’ key to landing the 27-year-old goaltender, who impressed enough in 2021-22 to earn a third-place Vezina Trophy vote.
- One area of less pressing need for New Jersey is behind the bench, where they have veteran coach Lindy Ruff set to enter his third season as the Devils’ head coach. Per Friedman, the Devils are believed to be “among the teams interested in” former Florida Panthers head coach and Jack Adams Award finalist Andrew Brunette in an assistant coaching role for next season. One assistant on the Devils’ staff, Alain Nasreddine, was recently named to Peter DeBoer’s Dallas Stars staff, leaving a vacancy that could be filled by Brunette. Ruff, 62, has a combined 46-76-16 record coaching in New Jersey. If he enters 2021-22 on the hot seat, the Devils adding Brunette to their coaching staff could be seen as GM Tom Fitzgerald preparing for an eventual succession plan in order to secure the next coach for his young, ascending Devils squad.