What's the latest on Patrik Laine's potential contract extension with the Columbus Blue Jackets, you ask?
When we last left things about two months ago, the Blue Jackets' regular season was over and Laine was talking about his desire to remain with the club he has spent the last two seasons with.
"I don't think it should be an issue," Laine said about a contract extension at his end-of-season media availability. "(Blue Jackets' management) have expressed they want me here. I've said the same thing so the feeling's mutual. Just figure out the term and the money and I think we should be fine."
And as far as things are concerned, that's basically still the sentiment as we approach July.
#CBJ Patrik Laine on the Blue Jackets playing games in Tampere next season:— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) April 21, 2022
"It was exciting to hear the news. Hopefully Im still here. Thats the first the step."
As Aaron Portzline indicated last weekend in The Athletic, there are still the financial parameters to sort out, which we could already deduce, and Jarmo Kekalainen's quotes are standard if not consistent with what most general managers in similar negotiations with players will say.
"It’s just one of those things,” Kekalainen said. “It’s gonna take some time, most likely.”
Per Portzline, below is Kekalainen's full quote which makes you wonder what's going on behind closed doors between the team, Laine, and his representation.
"They have their thoughts, and we have our thoughts,” Kekalainen said. “Our main thought is we want to make everything fit so that we can build a championship team. We believe in fair contracts, but the guys have to understand that they want to have a better team around them, too. That’s where there needs to be a little bit of a compromise."
GMs aren't going to tip their hand in any way, and while there probably isn't a reason for concern at this point, there is a precedent between the team and players in the past when it comes to contract negotiations.
The Blue Jackets went through contentious negotiations with Ryan Johansen's camp in 2014 before Johansen eventually signed a three-year contract after missing all of training camp. For what it's worth, Johansen got off to a red-hot start that season despite his absence in training camp, scoring a still career-best 71 points (26 goals, 45 assists) in all 82 games.
Then in January of the 2015-16 season, Johansen was traded to the Nashville Predators after the Blue Jackets got off to a dreadful 0-8 start, which also coincided with the start of John Tortorella's coaching tenure.
There was Josh Anderson’s 2017 training camp holdout before his eventual three-year deal that year. His eventual trade to the Montreal Canadiens in 2020 provided a season and a half of Max Domi.
Then the last ill-fated situation with a player that went awry was that of another top center in Pierre-Luc Dubois. After talks eventually resulted in a two-year deal on New Year's Eve in 2020, and following a trade request, Dubois was sent out of town by Jan. 2021 to the Winnipeg Jets for Laine and Jack Roslovic.
Surely, there is no reason to think the Laine negotiations will result in the same way as things did with any of the prior situations. Indications have been strong that Laine would sign some sort of long-term deal with the Blue Jackets and there's no reason to think that won't happen now.
We may never fully know what went off the rails between Dubois and Columbus, and now reports are Dubois is ready to leave the Jets for free agency in the summer of 2024 anyway. So that sounds like a Johansen thing more than anything else.
In May, Coby Maeir talked about Laine's potential next mega-deal with the team including some of the comparables to Laine in the $10 million range and higher around the league.
According to Portzline back then, an extension would "likely be the largest contract in franchise history."
With the NHL Draft right around the corner starting July 7-8, and the deadline for RFA to be offered qualifying offers on July 11, it's getting late early.
Those looking for news w/ #CBJ and Patrik Laine agreeing to a new deal should look no further than the signing of Joona Luoto, who was also signed by the Jets during Laine's fourth season.— Brian Hedger (@BrianHedger) June 2, 2022
At least one NHL source now believes it may be a tip-off that things are progressing.
The sooner the Blue Jackets are able to get a long-term pact with Laine done, the better. No more wondering, no more narratives of star players not being happy in Columbus, not another contentious negotiation that bites the Blue Jackets in the end.
Though in Kekalainen's defense, he has made the most of deals that saw Seth Jones come in for Johansen and Laine for Dubois.
There are also the long-term extensions Kekalainen has been able to get done relatively easily and quietly, like with Oliver Bjorkstrand, Zach Werenski, and Elvis Merzlikins since Jan. 21 so there is still plenty of room for optimism.
Yet, time is ticking so let's see how things play out with Laine.