I have a hard time seeing Laine’s contract coming in ahead of the one given to Zach Werenski, at least from an AAV perspective. Werenski has become a do-it-all type of defenseman for the Blue Jackets, who plays consistently nearly half of the game.
For all of the reasons mentioned, I think it’s important for Jarmo Kekalainen to hit this contract on the head. I would love to see an 8-year term, under $9.5m AAV … this seems like the kind of contract that would allow the team to lock down one of the top snipers in the world, while also giving them the freedom to improve other areas of the lineup as they look to become more successful.
Assuming a contract at 8 years, $76m, that would leave the club with just over $13m in cap space, with restricted free agents Adam Boqvist, Nick Blankenburg, and Emil Bemstrom being the only notable names needing contracts. Even with these three signing their next deals, Jarmo would seemingly have flexibility to upgrade other areas of the lineup, via trade or free agency.
We all know that the Blue Jackets have a history of having to overpay for top end talent to come to, and stick around Central Ohio. But in this case, there is mutual interest in a long-term relationship. This could be the turning point for this franchise as they look to build towards Stanley Cup contention, but it’s not as simple as throwing truckloads of money at one player. Laine is definitely a part of the future core of this team, but this deal has to make sense for both sides.