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Laine 'prepared for anything,' says future with Jets uncertain

Restricted free agent forward not expecting to sign contract before training camp

NHL.com @NHLdotcom

Patrik Laine said he does not expect to have a contract with the Winnipeg Jets by the start of training camp and that he is prepared for the possibility of playing elsewhere this season.

"You never know. It's still business, you've got to be prepared for anything," the forward told Sportsnet at the Finnish Alumni All-Star Game in Lahti, Finland, on Friday. "You never know where you are going to play next year, so I am just prepared for anything."

Laine is a restricted free agent after playing his first three NHL seasons with the Jets. He said contract negotiations have not begun.

"It's likely that it won't be signed before [training camp]," said the 21-year-old, who also spoke separately to a group of reporters. "It's probably not close. I've heard nothing, so I bet we're not close. I would've heard about it (if a contract were close), but I haven't heard anything yet."

Video: Patrik Laine comes in at No. 19 on the list

Laine said he is not stressed about the contract situation.

"I'm not worrying about that at all," he told Sportsnet. "I know that I have done my job as well as I can over these three years, so I know I am going to play somewhere next year, so that's not something I am thinking about too much. Hopefully get it done in the next couple of months and be ready when the puck drops."

Laine is among a group of high-profile players who remain restricted free agents, including teammate Kyle Connor. The forward said Wednesday he hopes to have a contract with the Jets before the start of training camp.

"That's definitely the plan," Connor said. "The player never wants to miss time in training camp. It's tough not getting that preparation and time with teammates in practice."

Video: Johnson on contract strategy for Laine, Connor

Other top restricted free agents are forwards Brock Boeser (Vancouver Canucks), Mitchell Marner (Toronto Maple Leafs), Brayden Point (Tampa Bay Lightning), Mikko Rantanen (Colorado Avalanche) and Matthew Tkachuk (Calgary Flames), and defensemen Charlie McAvoy (Boston Bruins), Ivan Provorov (Philadelphia Flyers) and Zach Werenski (Columbus Blue Jackets).

There is a belief that once one of the top-tier players signs a contract, the market for the others will be set and other signings could follow.

"[A contract] would have to happen pretty quickly," Laine said of attending the start of camp. "It happens on its own time, and I'm not in any rush about it."

Laine had 50 points (30 goals, 20 assists) in 82 games last season. It was the fewest goals and points in his three NHL seasons; he scored an NHL career-high 44 goals in 2017-18 and scored 36 during his rookie season of 2016-17.

Selected by Winnipeg with the No. 2 pick of the 2016 NHL Draft, Laine has 184 points (110 goals, 74 assists) in 237 regular-season games and 16 points (eight goals, eight assists) in 23 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Laine's 110 goals are sixth since he entered the NHL; Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals is first with 133.

Video: WPG@STL, Gm3: Trouba, Laine connect to put Jets ahead

"I didn't score many (goals last season)," Laine said. "Anyone can put skates on and try. It's not easy to score so many and most people can never do it. ... I've [scored] 110 goals in three seasons and there's only few guys ahead of me in that time. I've shown what I can do and what I have wanted to do and more. I'm not feeling insecure."

The Jets have lost key players this offseason, including defensemen Jacob Trouba, who was traded to the New York Rangers for defenseman Neal Pionk on June 17, and Ben Chiarot (Montreal Canadiens) and Tyler Myers (Canucks), who each left as an unrestricted free agent. Forward Kevin Hayes was traded to the Flyers on June 3 after being acquired in a trade with the Rangers on Feb. 25.

"A lot of guys have left, important guys," Laine said. "Now there are chances for young guys to take big steps."

The Jets open the preseason against the Edmonton Oilers on Sept. 16. They begin the regular season at the New York Rangers on Oct. 3.

Panu Markkanen of NHL.com/fi contributed to this report

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