Jackets GM: Laine’s contract status won’t affect draft weekend plans

Posted: 03/07/2022 in NHL, Sports
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen says an impasse in contract negotiations with restricted free agent sniper Patrik Laine won’t stop the club from being active during the NHL draft next week.

A new contract for Laine is Columbus’ primary piece of business this offseason, but the two sides aren’t close to an agreement on a multi-year deal, according to The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline.

“Like with anything, it takes its course,” Kekalainen said. “If they want to agree, we can do it quickly. If they don’t, it can take time. I don’t think it’s going to affect anything we do at the draft.”

The Blue Jackets own the sixth and 12th overall picks in the draft and have over $19 million in cap space, meaning they could be one of the league’s more aggressive teams at the draft. Kekalainen pieced together a blockbuster trade during last year’s draft weekend when he sent star defenseman Seth Jones to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Columbus has until July 11 to give Laine a one-year, $7.5-million qualifying offer to retain his rights as an RFA, but he isn’t required to sign it. The 24-year-old is also eligible for arbitration this summer.

“There’s a lot of time before the season starts,” Kekalainen said. “If for some reason we can’t get anything more than a year, then … well, we gotta make some decisions again.”

Laine bounced back from a poor debut season with the Blue Jackets and posted 56 points in 56 games in 2021-22.

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