One of the biggest decisions in Blue Jackets history looms this summer, a summer which revolves around restricted free agent winger Patrik Laine. For General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen, this is a decision that could alter the course of the Blue Jackets moving forward – for better or worse.
After acquiring Laine from the Winnipeg Jets (along with Central Ohio’s own Jack Roslovic), the Blue Jackets were hopeful that they had picked up one of the top snipers in the league. At first, the return on Laine looked bleak, as he and then-head coach John Tortorella struggled to feel each other out. The team struggled for most of the 2020-21 season, and ultimately finished with the fourth worst record in the NHL.
It’s entirely unfair to pin that outcome onto the shoulders of one player, in particular a player who didn’t even begin the season with the team. But, more was expected of Laine, who seemed to disappear for long stretches of time. Concerns continued into the 2021-22 season as Laine struggled out of the gate, but after missing time due to injury and the death of his father Harri, Laine came storming back and gave the franchise a glimpse into the kind of player he can be, finishing with 26 goals and 56 points, in just 56 games played.
For a long-suffering franchise such as the Blue Jackets, these numbers would put him right near the franchise record for points in a season (Artemi Panarin, 87p, 2018-19), which clearly bolsters the case that Laine is a player the CBJ desperately need. So, the team should throw him the keys to the city, as much money and term as they can, right? For me, no, that cannot happen. This is where it’s important to take a step back, remove all emotion, and look at the big picture.