Things have not gone swimmingly for Patrik Laine and the Blue Jackets since the team acquired him three years ago (almost to the day). It's not that he hasn't been productive - in 129 games wearing the Union Blue, Laine has 54 goals and 117 points.
The issue is, he hasn't been able to stay healthy or play consistently enough to move the needle here. His last three seasons have him missing 26, 27, and (so far this season) 29 games. Worse, whether he's in the lineup or not, it's hard to see any real difference in results from the team overall.
Those are big issues, when you're talking about the third highest paid player in the organization. This team needs him in the lineup, scoring goals, if they're going to have success. That's just not happening right now.
Even though things aren't working out at this time, Laine is an extremely valuable asset to this franchise. They have invested a lot of time and money into this player. Regardless the plight of this team this season, or for the next couple beyond, they would have to absolutely cash in on any trade involving the star sniper.
With that said, how high is his value at this point? He hasn't played much hockey for the last three years, and even when he's been healthy, the coaches have tried to squeeze more than seems possible out of the big man. He was even a healthy scratch at one point this year. He's scored just three more points than stay-at-home defenseman Andrew Peeke, in almost the same number of games played. That's not ideal.
Combine all of that with his contract (two years after this one with an $8.7m AAV), and it's hard to call this move likely at this year's trade deadline. Unless he comes back soon and starts scoring goals in a hurry, I find it hard to believe that teams who are already pressed up against the salary cap, are going to deal away the required assets to pry Laine out of Columbus before the end of this season.
What might that asking price be? Well, I can't imagine the team asking for any less than what they got in the Seth Jones deal. But, realistically, the value of a top pairing defenseman and a top-six winger are pretty different. So, inquiring teams will start with vastly lower offers.
Still, if the Jackets are going to deal Laine away, it's going to have to make sense. I could see them meeting a team in the middle for something like a top prospect, a first round pick, another pick (or perhaps a roster player?), and a short-term salary dump to offset the cap hit. If that salary dump is of any real substance, I could in theory see them getting an additional high draft pick or prospect here.
Really, this kind of move could be more tailored for the off-season, when cap constraints are freed up around the league (the cap itself goes up pretty significantly next year).
My personal opinion on this is that it may very well be time to move on from Laine. One good example would be the summer of 2012, when the Jackets traded beloved star winger Rick Nash to the New York Rangers. The team was floundering, and they needed to reset.
At first, the return from that trade looked underwhelming. But, the team got a couple of real pros in return (Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov), who were both key parts the cultural reset in Columbus. It may be time to repeat this process again. This team could use that kind of kickstart.