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As the NHL’s RFA dominos begin to really fall into place after the Toronto Maple Leafs’ signing of Mitch Marner, one of the league’s marquee shooters seems to be getting further and further away from a resolution to his standoff.
Just days after heading to Switzerland to join club SC Bern to prepare for the upcoming NHL season while his contract gets sorted out with the Winnipeg Jets, Patrik Laine opened up about what he feels has been a lack of support in regards to his ice time and usage.
In a recent interview with Pekka Jalonen, a sportswriter with Finnish outlet Iltalehti who has been following Laine his entire career, the 21-year-old lamented his middle-six role and the linemates he’s been skating alongside for the past three seasons, particularly down the middle.
"When you're having contract negotiations, one thing always is who are you playing with. With the merits I have, somewhere else I'd have an opportunity to play with the best players. Everybody who understands hockey knows that,” Laine explained, as translated by Jalonen.
“There are top lines and then there is our line. But I play with the guys I'm told to play.”
This sure sounds like a guy who feels he should be playing with Mark Scheifele on the Jets’ top line, rather than alongside centres Bryan Little, Andrew Copp or Adam Lowry in the team’s middle-six like he has for much of his first three NHL campaigns.
(And who could blame him?)
Jalonen noted that the Jets appear to understand their problem at the 2C slot — and have for some time — with the team’s recent history of personnel moves a clear indication.
"I have never heard him speak like this before in public. I'm not sure if the Jets have to be concerned about this because of course, this can make some bad blood between the two sides," Jalonen said.
"But the Jets know the situation. They need a second-line centre. They have traded two first-round picks to get a second-line centre, so they know what the problem is there."
Winnipeg traded for two big-name pivots the past two campaigns, but both Paul Stastny and Kevin Hayes were essentially playoff rentals and neither a long-term solution on Laine’s unit.
Things have seemed a little contentious between Laine and the Jets this summer as both try to work out a new contract extension. In mid-August, Laine raised some eyebrows and had many questioning how invested he was in the city of Winnipeg.
"You never know where you’re going to play next year so I’m just prepared for anything,” he said to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston before the conversation shifted to the city of Winnipeg itself. “Well I’ve got nothing bad to say about Winnipeg, you know? It’s been good so far. But you never know.”
Laine posted the worst season production-wise of his young career in 2018-19, scoring 30 goals and adding 20 assists — a 14-goal and 20-point drop from the previous campaign.
He’s averaged 17:11 of TOI over his first three NHL seasons.
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