Wheeler after Laine's ice-time comment: 'You want guys that are hungry'
"It's a great trait to have to want more, to want more ice time, more playing time," Wheeler said, according to NHL.com's Mitchell Clinton. "I would say those are all good things. You want guys that are hungry for more and not content with where he's at."
In an interview with Pekka Jalonen of Finland's Iltalehti published on Monday, Laine suggested he would be a first-line player on most NHL teams.
“In contract negotiations, one thing always is who you are playing with,” Laine said, as Jalonen translated. “With the merits I have, somewhere else I’d have an opportunity to play with the best players. Everyone who understands hockey should know that.”
Laine, who's currently training in Switzerland amid his contract dispute with the Jets, finished with a career-low 50 points in 82 games last season, and his performance was wildly inconsistent. Of his 30 goals, 18 came in November, and he found the net just seven times after the Christmas break.
The 21-year-old ranked fourth among Winnipeg forwards while averaging 17:14 of ice time per game, but he logged just 3:30 per contest with the man advantage.
"He's certainly one of our best players. He spends a good deal of time on that top unit on the power play. We've been top five in the league the last couple of years and a big part of it is what Patty does," Wheeler said.
Laine is one of two Jets players who need a new contract. Fellow restricted free agent Kyle Connor also remains without a deal.
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