Morning has arrived and with it the Pierre-Luc Dubois trade that was reported as imminent yesterday. The Winnipeg Jets, considered the favorite late last night, have completed a deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets to add the cornerstone center, as first reported by TSN’s Darren Dreger. The club has parted ways with two disgruntled young pieces of their own: winger Patrik Laine, selected one spot ahead of Dubois in 2016, and RFA center Jack Roslovic, a Columbus native. The Jets also receive a 2022 third-round pick alongside Dubois. Both teams have confirmed the trade.
The Jets have retained 26% of Laine’s salary for the final year of his current contract, according to TSN’s Frank Seravalli, bringing his cap hit down to $4.995MM and making the cap exchange of the two players even given Dubois’ $5MM AAV. Of course, Roslovic will also contribute to the Blue Jackets’ cap and Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that he has already agreed to a two-year contract. Colleague Chris Johnston believes Roslovic’s new deal carries a $1.9MM AAV; PuckPedia adds that the breakdown is as follows:
The qualifying offer at the end of the deal will be $2.28MM, the lower of 120% of the AAV and the final-year salary. It’s also worth noting that with the contract being signed in-season, the AAV will vary each year. This season, the cap charge will be just under $2.018MM while next season, the charge will be a little under $1.844MM.
There seemed to be too much in common between these two clubs for this not to be the eventual deal that ended the Dubois saga in Columbus. Dubois and Laine are a very similar caliber of player, with almost identical draft billing and both currently playing on bridge deals. Both were also not content with their current surroundings. Then there is Roslovic, who was an unsigned restricted free agent still living at home in Columbus early on this season. Perhaps the most disgruntled of all, Roslovic likely could not be happier with staying home. Dubois also has ties to the city of Winnipeg and the organization as his father, Eric Dubois, serves as an assistant coach for the AHL’s Manitoba Moose and his parents live there year-round.
With that said, Columbus’ own beat writer for The Athletic, Aaron Portzline, was skeptical that Laine and Roslovic would be headed to Columbus without another substantial sweetener alongside Dubois. He noted that the Jets were also thought to be seeking a defenseman, an area of strength on the Blue Jackets’ organizational depth chart. Not only did Columbus succeed in making this deal without giving up a Vladislav Gavrikov but they also held on to young blue liners like Andrew Peeke and Gabriel Carlsson at the cost of a third-rounder.
All things considered, the Blue Jackets make out very well in this trade. Dubois is a tough piece to give up, but there is a very strong argument to be made that Laine is the best player in the deal. The big, sniping winger has notched 140 goals and 250 points in 306 NHL games, finishing in the top ten league-wide in goal scoring twice in just four seasons. The 2017 All-Star is one of the most dangerous shooters and power play assets on the planet and should help to bring along some of Columbus’ young centers. That now includes Roslovic, who is 23 years old just like Dubois and Laine and a first-round pick as well. The young pivot has shown flashes of high-end ability and will finally land a permanent top-nine role in Columbus. Of course, the final judgement on the deal will have to wait a couple of years. The Blue Jackets have struggled to retain top talent and head coach John Tortorella has a history of clashing with players, so how contract negotiations play out between the team and Laine (and potentially Roslovic as well) will dictate how successful this move was for Columbus’ long-term success.
As for Winnipeg, the team adds yet another skilled center to a roster that was already deep on the wing and now has the talent to match down the middle. Dubois has recorded 159 points in 239 NHL games, not including a 2020 postseason where he tallied ten points in ten games and averaged nearly 23 minutes per night. While Dubois will miss some time with a mandatory 14-day quarantine, Laine was out of action on injured reserve anyhow. Once Dubois joins the Jets, who have the second-best record in the North Division early on, the team could be primed for a strong season and playoff success. They also will have nearly two seasons to evaluate Dubois before he needs a new contract. The hope in Winnipeg is that playing closer to family and having more sustained success will be enough to keep Dubois content and committed to the club long-term.
While many sources believed that the Jets were the most likely team to wind up completing a deal for Dubois, they were not the only team still in pursuit. Friedman reported last night that the Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, and Montreal Canadiens were still very much in the mix. He added that the Ducks, a team chock full of talented prospects, were thought to have significantly improved their offer recently. Well-off contenders like the Tampa Bay Lightning and Colorado Avalanche were even been linked to the young forward, who has the makings of a long-term top-six center. In fact, TSN’s Frank Seravalli says that it is easier to name the teams who were not interested in Dubois and assume all other at least kicked the tires. That list of non-suitors includes the Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Vegas Golden Knights. Practically anyone else could have still made a competing offer in time, but with Laine and Roslovic on the table for the Jets, Winnipeg was always likely to come out on top.