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This article was published 17/9/2019 (645 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Patrik Laine may be far, far away from Winnipeg Jets training camp right now. But it's safe to say the restricted free agent has become the focal point down at the rink.
Laine, 21, gave an interview with Finnish newspaper Iltalehti this week, and some of his comments appear to paint both his team, and some teammates, in a negative light.
"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 told journalist Pekka Jalonen, who provided an English translation to the Free Press.
Laine was rarely used on the top line with Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele last season, spending the bulk of his time with centre Bryan Little and winger Nikolaj Ehlers. He told Jalonen how that trio was often used as a third line, behind Scheifele's group and the Adam Lowry-Andrew Copp-Brandon Tanev checking unit.
"There are top lines and then there is our line. But I play with the guys I’m told to play," said Laine.
Jalonen then remarked to Laine that coach Paul Maurice seemed to have an affinity for Little.
"It has been noticed," Laine replied.
Jalonen told the Free Press he believes Laine still wants to remain with the Jets, but is getting increasingly frustrated at both his role and the lack of progress on contract talks. Laine is coming off his worst offensive season of his three-year career, with 30 goals and 20 assists in 82 regular-season games.
Laine's words quickly made their way across the pond and were put to a number of Jets players and coaches down at Bell MTS Iceplex.
Wheeler spoke on the matter this morning after the first on-ice session of the day, noting Laine did spend ample time on the top power-play unit with him and Scheifele last season.
"I think he’s certainly one of our best players. He spends a good deal of time on that top unit on the power play. We’re top five in the league last couple years, a big part because of what Patty does. I think he’s a young kid that’s certainly had a lot of success in three years. He’s definitely not doing it by himself, I can guarantee you that," said Wheeler.
"It’s a great trait to have, to want more, to want more ice time, more playing time. So I would say those are all good things, man. You want guys that are hungry for more and not content with where he’s at."
Wheeler was specifically asked whether Laine should have voiced his concerns publicly, as he's done in this case, or if there was a better way to handle it.
"I don’t know. I’m not him. I’m not in his shoes. I don’t know exactly how he’s feeling. I haven’t spoken on the phone with him for a couple weeks. He’s a guy that has certainly had a huge part in what we’ve done here and help get us to the point where we can be talked about as Stanley Cup contenders. I think maybe there’s some frustration in that, I can’t speak for him. I don’t know," said Wheeler.
Assuming a new deal is reached at some point, Wheeler said there won't be any issues in the room with Laine going forward,
"I think he’s just in a spot right now where he’s caught in limbo and probably wants more than anything to just get here and play and be an NHL player again. There’s probably a lot of frustration in the fact he’s not where he wants to be right now," said Wheeler.
Maurice was to address the matter later this afternoon.
"Everyone's entitled to their own opinion. He's a premier goal scorer, so maybe he's just trying to use that as some leverage for his contract. I wouldn't put too much weight into those comments," Lowry said this morning.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.