Blue Jackets re-sign Laine, trade Bjorkstrand to Kraken
By STEPHEN WHYNO
Patrik Laine signed a long-term deal to stay with the Columbus Blue Jackets, completing the final major item on their checklist to cap off a successful offseason.
The winger re-signed Friday for four years and $34.8 million, a contract that carries an $8.7 million salary cap hit through 2026. The deal allows Columbus to keep the high-scoring winger even after adding top free agent Johnny Gaudreau.
When they surprisingly landed Gaudreau, the big question was whether the Blue Jackets would be able to fit Laine under the cap as a restricted free agent. General manager Jarmo Kekalainen made sure that wasn't an issue.
"One of our priorities this summer was signing Patrik Laine to a contract extension," Kekalainen said. "He is a special player, one of the truly elite goal scorers in the National Hockey League, and he has fit in extremely well with our group since his arrival. He is an integral part of the team we are building in Columbus."
The Blue Jackets made room for Laine by trading forward Oliver Bjorkstrand to the Seattle Kraken for a third- and a fourth-round pick in the 2023 draft.
"It was a difficult decision to trade Oliver, who has given so much to our organization over the past seven years," Kekalainen said. "However, a move like this needed to be made in order for us to be salary cap compliant after the Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine signings. We are thankful for Oliver's many contributions to our club, on and off the ice."
Laine was a point-a-game player last season in his first full year with Columbus. The 24-year-old Finn has 184 goals and 158 assists for 342 points in 431 games NHL regular-season and playoff games with the Blue Jackets and Winnipeg Jets.
Columbus acquired Laine along with Jack Roslovic from Winnipeg in January 2021 in exchange for disgruntled center Pierre-Luc Dubois. The challenge was always keeping Laine around.
This deal does that, and it comes in the aftermath of Gaudreau blowing away the myth that players don't want to go to or stay in Columbus, after the likes of Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky and Seth Jones all wanted out rather than signing long term.
"I thought it was a good spot for me personally," Gaudreau said after signing. "I think we can have a lot of success here. It's somewhere that I had circled on my list for a while now. It's not only from what I've heard about the city and where you live, but they've got good players on this team, too, and I'm really looking forward to jumping in with this group."
Beyond Gaudreau and Laine, that group includes top defenseman Zach Werenski, rookie center Kent Johnson, 2021 first-round pick Cole Sillinger, captain Boone Jenner and 27-year-old goaltender Elvis Merzlikins. With Laine under contract, the Blue Jackets are another step closer to returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2020.
Seattle added more talent by acquiring Bjorkstrand, a 27-year-old from Denmark who is coming off a season in which he set career highs with 28 goals and 57 points and matched his previous NHL season best with 29 assists.
"We're excited to welcome Oliver to our organization," Kraken GM Ron Francis said. "He's coming off of a career year offensively playing top minutes in Columbus. His creativity and hockey sense will be good additions to our forward group."
Going into their second year in the league, the Kraken already this offseason signed Stanley Cup-winning winger Andre Burakovsky, defenseman Justin Schultz and goaltenders Martin Jones and Magnus Hellberg.
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports
Updated July 23, 2022