Should The Anaheim Ducks Walk The Laine?
It’s hard to imagine the Anaheim Ducks going all out and spending the assets the Jets may be asking for. It’s pretty tough to even consider what haul they might be imagining they can ask for. However, that part comes later. For now, it’s probably best to determine what Laine could bring to the Ducks if he were acquired.
Primarily, Laine would provide a prime-aged scorer to a list that is lacking in scorers and prime-aged players. While the Anaheim Ducks do have a small contingent of players sitting around the 20-24 years of age bracket, none of them at this stage are projecting to be top-6 players that the Ducks can rely on over the next decade. Sooner rather than later, players like Ryan Getzlaf, Adam Henrique, and Jakob Silfverberg will all move on. Given those older statemen are a large portion of the Anaheim Ducks’ primary source of points, strides will need to be made to remedy that situation.
At 22-years-of-age and a career-low 28 goals (still ~33 goal pace) to his name, there’s no denying that Laine to help contribute to a Ducks resurgence in the years ahead. While Laine did post the highest primary and secondary assist rates of his career this past season, it’s unlikely he’ll ever be confused with a playmaker or even a well rounded offensive threat. Laine is a shooter.
On that note, it is worth noting that Laine shot the puck at a higher rate this past season than he had in his three prior seasons. Shooting the puck at a rate of ~2.2 per game would have given him an additional ~25 shots on net over an 82-game season. Even though Laine’s shooting percentage has seemingly stabilized near ~12% these past two seasons, this still provides an avenue for a few extra goals scored.
It is also notable that Laine creates rebound opportunities at 1.1 per 60 minutes of even-strength play. A rate that was good for 3rd on the Jets team and top-80 over the entire NHL (accounting for a minimum of 10 games played) in the 2019-2020 season. For a team that crashes the net hard, as the Ducks have traditionally been wanting to do, a shooter of Laine’s caliber, who can score in his own right, as well as create scoring opportunities for players in the paint, could provide dividends.
Given Laine is only 22-years-old, the Anaheim Ducks could conceivably see him alongside their best prospect and playmaker, Trevor Zegras, in years to come. As a pass-first player, it could be assumed that a shot-first player like Laine would settle nicely with him. They’d only need to find another strong wing to go alongside them, over the next few years.
However, this is where the issues start to arise, given the Anaheim Ducks have a dearth of talent to give away in terms of prospects and on-ice personnel. It’s also notable that the Anaheim Ducks decline in play over the past couple of years, and this last season, in particular, may handcuff their ability to command premium value on any of their players. Thus what do the Jets need?
In terms of defensive help, they may like someone who can contribute now, but who is also young enough to play with the team for a few years more. While players such as Cam Fowler and Josh Manson come to mind, Hampus Lindholm is probably the Jets target.
Given that he is signed for a further two seasons at a reasonable rate and has some upside to his game, it stands to reason that he would be the first and last port of call for the Jets should Anaheim pick up the phone. Naturally, his fall off this past year or so inhibits his value, and even at his peak, he would not likely have been enough to cover the cost of a 22-year-old 30-40 goal scorer.
Thus, the Jets look to fortifying their 2nd line for the future. If I were them I’d be asking for Zegras, and possibly something else depending on how each team values its players and prospects. Lindholm and Zegras for Laine is very likely a reasonable starting point in negotiations.
However, while this provides the Anaheim Ducks with an elite goal scorer, it removes the playmaker they may have deemed essential to getting that goal scorer going. It also further dilutes an already somewhat weak defensive unit, and add’s a forward line player who may require sheltering on the defensive end.