Patrik Laine will play his first game for the Columbus Blue Jackets against the Dallas Stars at Nationwide Arena on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; FS-O, FS-SW, NHL.TV).
The forward and center Jack Roslovic were acquired by the Blue Jackets in a trade with the Jets for forward Pierre-Luc Dubois and a third-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft on Jan. 23.
Laine skated on a line with center Alexandre Texier and Cam Atkinson during the Blue Jackets morning skate Tuesday.
“He’s an offensive player,” Columbus coach John Tortorella said Tuesday. “We’ve had struggles scoring goals. There’s no question we need to score some goals. … This guy can score some goals. He’s certainly a welcome addition to the team.
“I just want him to worry about his game. If he worries about his game and plays the way he can play, and scores like he does, he’s going to lift us.
Laine has not played since the season opener Jan. 14 because of an upper-body injury. In that game, he scored two goals with an assist for Winnipeg in a 4-3 overtime win against the Calgary Flames. His agent, Mike Liut, suggested during the offseason a trade might be best for Laine, who is playing the final season of a two-year, $13.5 million contract ($6.75 million average annual value) he agreed to Sept. 27, 2019 and can become a restricted free agent after this season.
The trade was made two days after Dubois was benched and played an NHL-career low 3:55 in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. On Jan. 13, Tortorella confirmed Dubois told the Blue Jackets he no longer wanted to play for them.
Columbus is 4-3-3 this season and 3-1-1 since the trade.
“It’s awesome to be part of the Blue Jackets organization right now and [I’m] happy that they wanted me on board,” Laine said the day of the trade. “I couldn’t be more excited. It’s always a new chapter and kind of going to a new place, meeting new guys. [I’m] kind of scared, but it will be fun. There’s a bunch of guys I know and a couple Finnish guys and [I’m] just super excited to meet everybody and get things going.”
Laine, the No. 2 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, one selection before Dubois, has scored 140 goals in his five seasons, 10th in the NHL over that span. He scored 63 points (28 goals, 35 assists) in 68 games last season, his fewest goals in his first four NHL seasons, but his points-per-game average (0.93) was his highest.
“I can tell you right from the draft, we drafted Pierre-Luc at No. 3 and Patrik Laine was No. 2 and we would’ve given a lot to move up from three to two at that time and we’re very excited to have Patrik Laine join us,” Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. “There’s a price to be paid for an elite player like he is, and I think Jack Roslovic is going to be a huge part of this whole trade. He’s a guy that we wanted to draft, couldn’t get it done, obviously.”
Tortorella said his first impressions of Laine following the trade were positive ones.
“He’s a good guy to be around,” Tortorella said. “In my phone calls with him, I’ve enjoyed talking to him. He presents himself and has thoughts. He certainly is willing to give his opinion on things, which I think is very good. When the deal was made the guys were excited. They knew they were getting a goal scorer.
“What goes disguised a little bit and is lost because of how he can score, and how he does score, I mean, he buries the puck when he scores, but from what I understand he’s a very good playmaker. He is good with the puck, so he may make people better around him.”
Roslovic has one assist in three games since debuting with the Blue Jackets on Jan. 28.
NHL.com Independent Correspondent Craig Merz contributed to this report
Photo courtesy of Anthony Allocco with the Columbus Blue Jackets