Patrik Laine Wants to Build a Long-Term Future in Columbus, According to Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen

By Rob Mixer on January 25, 2021 at 10:13 am
Winnipeg Jets forward Patrik Laine (29) skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena. Winnipeg defeated Toronto in an overtime shoot-out.
John Sokolowski – USA Today Sports
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The real work begins now.

The Columbus Blue Jackets made a calculated gamble in trading Pierre-Luc Dubois to the Winnipeg Jets for Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic. Dubois' trade request, coupled with the need to resolve the situation quickly after last week's events, forced the hand of GM Jarmo Kekalainen.

But he sounds like a man who is thrilled to have a player in Laine, who he had eyes on at the top of the 2016 NHL Draft, in the fold with the Blue Jackets.

Laine hasn't yet suited up for Columbus–he needs a U.S. work visa and must pass COVID-19 protocols–but the Blue Jackets aren't wasting anytime getting their new star acclimated. Appearing on Sirius XM NHL Network Radio's "Morning Skate" on Monday, Kekalainen shed light on Laine's arrival, his upper-body injury, and more.

“We’ve got the medical reports on his injury and it’s supposed to be day-to-day,” Kekalainen said. The Blue Jackets expect him to be fine by the time his visa situation and COVID protocols are passed.

When can we expect to see Laine in a Blue Jackets sweater?

“I think we can get him in within 48 hours once he arrives here," Kekalainen said. "We’re going to send a plane to get him. He’s going to be on a private plane and go through the protocol, getting tested every day. Once he arrives here, he needs two negative tests and he’s ready to go.”

That could put Laine in Columbus later this week, with a potential debut as early as this weekend in Chicago. We'll see on that, of course. 

The top priority outside of getting Laine into town is signing him to an extension. Laine is a restricted free agent at the end of the season, but it sounds like there's optimism on both sides about a new deal.

“I’ve had some conversations with him and that’s something that we want to build. We want to build a long-term relationship with him and he’s said the same thing to me and I believe him, so we’re going to get started once he gets here.” – Jarmo Kekalainen, on Patrik Laine

Former Blue Jackets forward Mark Letestu, who spent time with the Jets and Laine, was a resource for Kekalainen and his staff as they went through the evaluation process leading to the trade. Letestu gave positive reviews of Laine, Kekalainen said, but the GM also has pre-existing knowledge as his relationship with Laine goes back to his draft year.

“I’ve heard nothing but good things about him as a teammate and I worked with Team Finland for the World Cup in 2016 when he was there as an 18-year-old," Kekalainen said. "He seemed like a confident, but humble kid who had respect for his teammates and he’s well-liked. And obviously, we’ve done our research with Winnipeg as well. Mark Letestu was a teammate of his and I have a tremendous amount of respect for Mark Letestu, how he handles himself, the kind of leader he was here with us for many years, and the type of teammate he was. He had nothing but great things to say about Patrik during his time in Winnipeg, so those are pretty good starts, pretty good testaments for me.

"Obviously, he’s from Finland and I have a pretty good network over there as well. We’ve done our homework and we believe he’s going to be good teammate and work his butt off for our team with his heart and soul in it, and that’s what we want.”

Kekalainen said the trade took some time to come together, but when it came down to it, they got the best offers from interested teams and made a list.

“Obviously we have to do our due diligence around the league and see what the interest level is and who’s serious about it," Kekalainen said. "We gathered that information, put them in order, ranked them, and thought the deal we made was at the top of the list and that’s when we pulled the trigger.”

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