Another year of hockey in Columbus and another current member of the Blue Jackets has grown beyond what the franchise can provide for him, wanting bigger and brighter lights.
Before top centerman Pierre-Luc Dubois signed a two-year, $10-million contract as a restricted free agent, rumors — eventually confirmed reports later — were pouring out from those in the know, hinting the team’s reigning leading scorer wanted a change of scenery.
So, inevitably, just about every other team in the NHL were quick to call Jackets GM Jarmo Kekäläinen, snapping on their phones like rabid dogs tied up in the front yard with their leash at full extension. This hurried excitement is warranted. Ever since being selected third overall by Columbus in 2016, Dubois has steadily grown into the center that he has been destined to be.
He didn’t produce points at the same level last season compared to the one prior, but his level of play never truly dipped in terms of overall contribution. Considering the fact he went from having all-world Artemi Panarin on his wing to Gustav Nyquist, a small dip from 0.74 points-per-game to 0.70 isn’t something to really take to heart. Suddenly transitioning from the complementary player on his line to the one with the brightest spotlight on his back — apparently not bright enough for him, though — wasn’t enough to knock Dubois off his stellar career trajectory.
With his time seemingly done in Columbus, whatever club acquires Dubois is getting a pure scorer that can have a massive impact on the team’s offense, while being just slightly below-average in terms of individual defense. Besides having the vision to pull off incredible passes, lifting his non-Panarin teammates on his back as they ride the young center to career scoring seasons is just one small aspect of what he’s been able to do through his three years in the league.
Other than the colossal towers of his even-strength offense contribution, Dubois is basically an average NHL player. But, what he is able to do in the offensive zone, especially at 5v5, makes him so valuable to so many teams.
Almost every club in the league would be much better with Dubois in the lineup, but there are only a select few that seem to be the right fit.
The Jets were on their way to creating one of the most talented and youthful crops of forwards that the league has ever seen. A couple years removed from their predicted championship, they are dealing with their own forward that seemingly wants out in Patrik Laine, and a few one-dimensional wingers that have still not knocked Blake Wheeler off of his first-line duties.
Adding Dubois would certainly help their own problem down the middle behind Mark Scheifele, as re-acquiree Paul Stastny is barely holding on to that position for beyond this season and Adam Lowry isn’t anything beyond a good third-liner.
Beyond their actual need for Dubois, they can give the Blue Jackets a fairly good package in return. As they have floated in between contention and the draft lottery, they collected some players along the way that can be moved in exchange. Besides the one-for-one Laine swap that some fans are dreaming of, the Jets have some other NHL talents they can part ways with and add some younger players under their control — throwing out winger Kristian Vesalainen’s name isn’t a terrible option — to get a well-rounded offer set up for Columbus to take.
Depending on what Kekäläinen wants in return for his star, Winnipeg can give them some of everything.
New Jersey Devils
As the brown spot of the tri-state area, the New Jersey Devils are currently wading through the murky waters at the bottom of the league. Nevertheless, they are rumored to be in on Dubois. Projected to finish as one of the worst teams this season, the Devils are certainly not in a win-now position where acquiring Dubois is that one last piece to take them to glory. This will be a move coming out of desperation to find a star to wear their colors once again.
Nico Hischier is doing a fine enough job with what is provided, but he is essentially the prototypical second-line center. What Dubois could bring is the ability to create a powerful duel threat to carry the Devils into mediocrity, as they are still quite a distance away from any level of competition against their geographical rivals.
The Devils have had an abundance of draft picks through the last few years, and the true trade value of someone like a Dawson Mercer, fresh off his first-round hype, can be factored into a hypothetical trade. To deal from a prospect pool to get a bonafide young NHL talent will take a lot of future assets, but they can really do it if they want to break the bank. It just depends on how much pressure they are currently under to pull off such a move.
Dubois is from Quebec, so the Montreal Canadiens are interested in him.
It really is that simple. But beyond that, Dubois would instantly solve a nagging problem that Montreal has had ever since Saku Koivu retired. Their number-one center spot has been occupied by the likes of David Desharnais and Tomas Plekanec throughout recent seasons, but someone to stabilize that role and move everyone down the depth chart has never been truly as available as Dubois currently is.
As reported by a Hockey Man, the Canadiens’ potential package would likely revolve around young center Nick Suzuki. Throw in a couple of picks like the useless bay leaves in your soup and you’ve got a trade.
Suzuki has looked very, very good at times but if the Habs want someone more cemented as a top centerman, then he can be the one expended to do so. It can be considered a risk for those that talk about watching the younger forward while playing for the Owen Sound Attack through grainy illegal streams, but Dubois is absolutely outstanding, and he’s French.
One of the other teams that have reportedly joined the hunt to lure the Blue Jackets to part with another young star is the Florida Panthers. Weird.
The Panthers have been in this weird limbo. Similarly heralded to be the next great team as the Jets have, Florida is in their own miniscule re-tool as they face the uncertainty of unrecognizability and just missing the postseason for the next decade. With some top prospects like Gregori Denisenko and other interesting youngsters like Owen Tippett and Serron Noel, the Panthers have drafted fairly well enough to wrestle a heaping pile of youth and throw it north to Ohio.
It might take more than a couple of good names to peel the Blue Jackets’ grasp away from Dubois, but for a team that is currently rolling with Alexander Wennberg as their second-line center, it might be a necessary move.
No matter what, it is going to take a whole lot to let Columbus move on from Dubois this early in his career. We have seen plenty of changes of heart throughout this league’s history and with two years still under contract, the Blue Jackets can stand tall and just try and persuade the young center with all the sights that Columbus has to offer.
But that’s boring, so move him now so we can actually enjoy watching the team that Pierre-Luc Dubois plays for.
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