The Philadelphia Flyers have a bit of salary-cap space to play with. They also have bit of a void on their blue line after Matt Niskanen’s abrupt retirement earlier this month.
So naturally, Philadelphia is being linked to...Patrik Laine?
What Patrik Laine Brings
The rumors persist that the 22-year-old sniper is looking for a road out of Winnipeg. Selected second overall in 2016, Laine has put up impressive numbers in his first four NHL seasons. He’s first in his draft class in games played (305 in four seasons). He’s also second in goals (138, 20 behind leader Auston Matthews) and points (247 vs. 285 for Matthews).
Looking at the NHL as a whole, Laine is eighth in goals and 39th in points over the last four seasons. Impressive stuff.
Laine is on a relatively affordable bridge contract that will pay him $6.75 million next season. Then, he’ll become a restricted free agent again. His qualifying offer requirement will be $7.5 million, based on his actual salary for 2020-21.
Do the Flyers need to add a sniper like that to their lineup?
As a team, they ranked eighth in offensive production during the regular season last year, averaging a solid 3.29 goals per game. But with the Big 3 of Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier all seeing their offense dip last season, the club lacked a point-per-game player. Travis Konecny led the way with 24 goals and 61 points in 66 games played.
The scoring drought worsened in the playoffs. Grinding it out against Carey Price, Semyon Varlamov and Thomas Greiss, Philadelphia dropped to just 2.08 goals per game against the Canadiens and the Islanders.
So — more scoring would be nice.
Laine finished his year with 28 goals and 63 points in 68 games — an uptick for him from just 50 points in 2018-19. A wrist injury limited him to just one game in the postseason.
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At What Cost?
So, what would it take to acquire him?
A first-round pick, for starters. The Flyers currently hold all their picks over the next three years except the 2021 fifth-rounder that they dealt to Montreal at trade deadline in exchange for Nate Thompson — who, coincidentally, has now signed as a free agent with Winnipeg.
The Jets will also be looking for a top prospect. Would Nolan Patrick fill the bill?
Patrick’s a bit of a risk to acquire, after missing all of last season with migraine disorder. But the second-overall pick from 2017, one year behind Laine, has a ton of upside if he can stay healthy. He’s also a Winnipeg-born kid who played his junior hockey in nearby Brandon, Manitoba, and still makes his offseason home in the area — where he has been spotted on the ice at scrimmages in recent weeks.
Nolan Patrick photos from today's scrimmage:
📸: Chris Maher pic.twitter.com/xaJ8MY8Uhy
— Jamey Baskow (@JameyBaskow) October 29, 2020
And there’s some nice symmetry to the idea of Patrik-for-Patrick, dontcha think?
If there’s a third piece involved — the Jets are still rebuilding their blue line after the 2019 exodus that saw Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers and Ben Chiarot all leave town before Dustin Byfuglien’s surprising non-return. Without much offense from the back end behind surprising Neal Pionk, could Kevin Cheveldayoff be interested in a Shayne Gostisbehere — skating well once again after left knee surgery in January?
How It Would Look
The Flyers would love to get Ghost’s $4.5 million cap hit off their books for the next three seasons, even if that means leaning more heavily on the young D corps of Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, and Philippe Myers. New addition Erik Gustafsson and returnees Justin Braun and Robert Hagg won’t do everything that Niskanen could do but should provide a solid veteran presence.
Chuck Fletcher is probably not keen to cut ties with Patrick when it looks like he’s making good progress in his recovery. But a player like Laine doesn’t come on the market every day. Now that Giroux and Voracek are into their 30s, he could end up combining with players like Konecny, Oskar Lindblom, and the next wave that includes prospects like Joel Farabee to form a new, younger offensive nucleus — if the chemistry is right.
NOTES: Two Flyers prospects have been named to the roster for Team Canada’s World Junior Selection Camp, 2020 first-rounder Tyson Foerster, and 2019 fourth-rounder Mason Millman. The 46-man roster will convene in Red Deer, Alberta from Nov. 16 – Dec. 13. Then, selected players will travel north to Edmonton for the 2021 World Junior Championship, which gets underway on Christmas Day.