In this week’s column, I finally caught up on all of the signings I couldn’t report in the past weeks. I’ll touch on those transactions and one notable injury. My favorite story this week involves my favorite team and a fight between two best friends.
Oh, and the Columbus Blue Jackets and Winnipeg Jets completed a monster trade this week. I’ll lead with that.
1. Winnipeg and Columbus Complete Blockbuster
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The biggest news of the week happened on Saturday morning when the Columbus Blue Jackets and Winnipeg Jets agreed to swap Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic for Pierre-Luc Dubois and a 2022 third-round pick. The trade stemmed from both teams sitting on uneven ground with their superstars.
For Winnipeg, they never quite knew what they would get from Patrik Laine. Sure, when he’s on, he’s arguably the most deadly scorer in the NHL. When he’s off, he’s a liability at best. That’s why Laine only received a two-year extension with a $6.75 AAV before last season after coming off a 30-goal, 50-point season. Laine is still only 22-years-old and has already scored 140 career goals.
The Columbus situation is even more interesting. Dubois quickly blossomed as one of the best players on the team, scoring 10 points in 10 playoff games last season. He signed a two-year extension before this season started with an AAV of $5 million. After signing the extension, Dubois announced he had requested a trade. Many speculated it had something to do with not wanting to play for head coach John Tortorella. Dubois was benched by Tortorella last Monday which didn’t help the situation.
Columbus will also get Roslovic in the deal. Roslovic is a 23-year-old center, and Columbus native, who scored 29 points last season. I don’t know too much about him, but his inclusion in the trade makes the salary cap more even.
This is a rare trade that could work out for both teams. For Winnipeg, they bet that Laine will never really put it together and that Dubois will continue to ascend as a star in the NHL. A great two-way center is more valuable than a scoring winger. This trade has a much higher floor for Winnipeg as they know what they’re getting from Dubois.
The Blue Jackets went the riskier route. It’s tough to give up a top-line center like Dubois, but Laine does the most important thing in hockey better than most: he scores goals. If Laine can improve defensively and put up 40 goals a season, Columbus is going to be tough to beat. Columbus hasn’t really had a guy who can score like Laine since Rick Nash was on the team.
This isn’t a trade we can judge just yet. However, it could improve two solid teams in small markets quickly and help them decide their direction. Of course, the most important aspect of this trade is what each team does contractually. Laine will be an RFA after this season and Dubois after next. That pretty much guarantees each team keeps their star after their contracts expire. But for how much? That will be the key question as both teams aim to build around these two players for the future. Who they can put around them might be more important.
2. Larkin Gives Tickets to Werenski Family, Throw Hands
This was the coolest thing I saw this week. As everyone knows by now, spectators aren’t allowed in any arenas this season, outside of a handful of teams. A select few people are able to attend, including members of ownership and some family members. That meant that Zach Werenski’s parents, natives of the Detroit area, wouldn’t be able to see their son play when the Columbus Blue Jackets traveled to Little Caesar’s Arena to take on the Detroit Red Wings last week. However, that changed when Werenksi’s childhood friend Dylan Larkin stepped in.
#CBJ defenseman Zach Werenski, a Detroit-area native, will have his parents at tomorrow’s game. No road tickets for players right now, but his childhood friend/Wings captain Dylan Larkin is leaving tickets for Zach’s parents.
— Jeff Svoboda (@JacketsInsider) January 17, 2021
Yes, Larkin left his tickets to Werenski’s parents so they could see their son play in his hometown. Larkin and Werenski’s relationship is well documented. The two played youth hockey together and played together for one year at the University of Michigan (yuck).
A classy move from Detroit’s newest captain. That didn’t stop the two buddies from chucking knucks during the game.
ROYAL RUMBLE pic.twitter.com/XNmFiICnCo
— Spittin’ Chiclets (@spittinchiclets) January 18, 2021
No doubt the two enjoyed this. I know there were times where I wanted to punch my best friend in the face. These two probably relished the opportunity to throw a few punches at each other for all of the pranks and jabs over the years.
Zach Werenski on his scrap with childhood friend Dylan Larkin, who left Z tickets for his parents today: “I didn’t get hit, so I’ll take it as a win.”
Werenski said the buddies were kind of laughing during it, but he was trying to win the fight. His phone is blowing up now. #CBJ
— Jeff Svoboda (@JacketsInsider) January 18, 2021
Good to hear the two are still buddies after the fight. I’m sure the Werenski and Larkin families were horrified and hated every second of the scrap. However, it did provide a moment of fun for all the fans.
3. Shane Doan Returns to ArizonaThe captain has returned. Arguably the most iconic player in the history of the Phoneix Arizona Coyotes, Shane Doan, will rejoin the organization as the Chief Hockey Development Officer. You can find Doan’s responsibilities below:
GLENDALE, ARIZONA — The Arizona Coyotes announced today that former Coyotes Captain Shane Doan has been hired by the club to serve as its Chief Hockey Development Officer. Doan will report directly to Coyotes President & CEO Xavier Gutierrez and will serve as a strategic advisor to Owner, Chairman & Governor Alex Meruelo and General Manager Bill Armstrong. He will support the club’s business and hockey operations departments and advise on major club decisions and initiatives.
Doan retired at the end of the 2016-17 season and joined the NHL’s hockey operations department and worked alongside commissioner Gary Bettman, Bill Daly, and Colin Campbell.
Doan is a legend in Arizona, playing his entire career with the franchise, including the one year in Winnipeg before the team moved to Phoenix. He served as captain for the final 13 years of his career. He played 1,540 games, scored 402 goals, and added 570 points in his career, all for the Coyotes/Jets organization. His number was retired in 2019 by the team.
4. Minnesota Extends Foligno
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Last week, the now exciting Minnesota Wild rewarded Marcus Foligno with a three-year extension with an AAV of $3.1 million. The 29-year-old is entering his fourth season in the Twin Cities after spending the first six years of his career with his hometown Sabres.
Last season was Foligno’s best, where he posted an 11-14-25 line, a career-high in points. The 6’3″ forward is not known for his offense, but for his physicality and defensive play. He received votes for the Selke trophy during the 2018-19 season.
I don’t know too much about Foligno. I do know that Wild GM Bill Guerin is building something up there. Although it’s early in the season, the Wild sit in second place in the West division, just behind the Las Vegas Golden Knights. Rookie sensation Kirill Kaprizov leads the team with four goals.
It takes four lines to win a championship. Some of those players will have to play physical rather than relying on their offense. Foligno looks to be one of those guys and you need a few in the playoffs. The cap hit is so low that I’m not worried about this signing for Minnesota. They just need to build around Kaprizov and hope Zach Parise and Ryan Suter don’t age too poorly.
5. Thornton Injured, Out for a Month
The Toronto Maple Leafs will be without the services of Jumbo Joe Thornton for at least a month after the forward fractured his rib against the Oilers on Wednesday. Of course, Thornton signed with Toronto this offseason after spending 15 seasons with the San Jose Sharks. He left the Bay area in search of a title in Toronto.
So far this season, he has scored one goal and one assist playing alongside Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews. All Maple Leafs fans are hoping Thornton channels his inner Ray Bourque and wins a Stanley Cup with a different team in what is surely his last season in the NHL.
Seeing as my Red Wings have no shot at winning the Cup this year, I’ll be rooting for Jumbo and the Leafs to win it all. Sorry to all of our Canadian readers who hate me after reading that. ■