An update on Patrik Laine plus the latest on the Penguins in today’s NHL rumor mill.
NO CONTRACT TALK WITH JETS, SAYS LAINE
SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reports Patrik Laine said contract talks with the Winnipeg Jets have been non-existent this summer and he isn’t sure what that means for his future with the club. The 21-year-old left-winger is a restricted free agent coming off his entry-level contract.
Laine said he’s unconcerned about the situation, noting he’ll be playing somewhere this season. “Well, you never know. It’s still business, you’ve got to be prepared for anything,” Laine said. “But yeah, you never know where you’re going to play next year so I’m just prepared for anything.” He also said he’s got nothing bad to say about Winnipeg.
WINNIPEG SUN: Scott Billeck also reported on Laine’s comments. He pointed out the young Finn is among several big-ticket RFAs this summer, including teammate Kyle Connor. Billeck notes the Jets have over $17 million in salary-cap space with 17 players signed for next season. The impasse with Laine and Connor hasn’t helped them bolster their depth.
Billeck feels the Jets must avoid a lengthy standoff like the one the Toronto Maple Leafs had last season with William Nylander. The decline in Laine’s production last season and a lingering back issue could factor into the negotiations.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Laine’s not the only RFA this summer who’s had little or no contract discussions with their respective teams. A report emerged earlier this week indicating Colorado Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic last spoke with Mikko Rantanen’s agent two months ago.
I don’t think a lack of talks between Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and the Laine camp is anything to be concerned about right now. The time to worry is if there’s no progress as training camp approaches.
For now, fans should avoid reading too much into this. It’s an unusual summer, with several noteworthy young RFA stars still unsigned. It seems like everyone is waiting to see who gets signed first. It’s also mid-August, a time of little significant player movement or signings.
Once the calendar turns to September, I anticipate we’ll see negotiations heat up for Laine, Connor and the other RFAs. And no, I don’t believe this means the Jets could shop Laine. There’s always a possibility he could be traded for the right offer, but I don’t believe any team can come up with one suitable enough to tempt Cheveldayoff.
I expect the Jets will re-sign Laine and Connor. For how much and for how long is anyone’s guess, but they will get signed. And if they need to free up cap space afterward to fill out the remainder of the roster, they could move someone like Nikolaj Ehlers ($6 million annual average value) or Mathieu Perreault ($4.125 million).
LATEST PENGUINS SPECULATION
TRIBLIVE.COM: Jonathan Bombulie recently wondered if Justin Schultz has a future with the Pittsburgh Penguins beyond this season. The 29-year-old defenseman is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
The Penguins will face another salary-cap crunch next summer as they’ll also have to re-sign Matt Murray, Alex Galchenyuk, and Jared McCann, among others. If the club struggles this season, Bombulie predicts Schultz could be shopped before the trade deadline.
PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Wingers Valeri Nichushkin and Drew Stafford top Dan Kingerski’s list of potential professional tryout candidates for the Penguins. Others include defenseman Michael Stone, winger Tobias Rieder, and blueliner Ben Lovejoy.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins must shed salary once Marcus Pettersson is re-signed. They probably won’t look at PTO candidates until after that’s sorted.
GM Jim Rutherford could peddle Schultz but I expect he’ll retain the rearguard for one more shot at a Stanley Cup run this season. I concur with Bombulie that he would be a late-season move if the Pens struggle to stay in playoff contention.
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