The Pierre-Luc Dubois saga in Columbus took a another turn on Wednesday, as always-candid head coach John Tortorella appeared in an interview on 97.1 The Fan and did not hold back in his commentary on the situation surrounding his young forward. While he has not officially requested a trade from the Blue Jackets, contract negotiations with Dubois did not go well and the team has been led to believe that he would prefer a change of scenery. Tortorella took a more direct approach, outright confirming that this is the case:
Yeah, he wants out. He spoke to the team, as we do here. It’s a little bit different than (departed 2019 free agents Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky) were. This is a 22-year-old kid. It doesn’t happen that often, so he has been honest with the group.
Yet, Tortorella is not content with the explanations (or lack thereof) that Dubois has provided he and others. He remains unclear as to what has changed in the talented center, who looked like a budding superstar and long-term cornerstone in Columbus just months ago in the postseason. And if the coach himself is to blame, it doesn’t seem like Tortorella is willing to let that change his style or impact his locker room.
I wish he was a little bit more honest as far as reasons why. I still haven’t really gotten to that, but I think he needs to speak on that… I think that (conflict) is a really good thing in developing a hockey player. Now ’Luc’ may not think that. Sometimes these players, especially today’s athletes, think, ’You’re too hard on me, you’re picking on me’ and this and that. Maybe it’s too hard for him. I don’t know. I haven’t been given a reason why he wants to leave. He certainly hasn’t said it to me that ’I don’t want to play for you.’ I think if that’s the reason he should tell me, and he should really basically get in front of it and get up out of here. That’s just the way I think you should do business in this stuff here. There’s no sense of people trying to figure out what’s going on. Let’s get in front of it here and get about our business and try to be the best team we can be… It’s a short leash with me as far as this is concerned. He needs to continue to do the things to help this team win and be the best teammate he can be, or I’m not sure where it goes. It’s a situation and we’ll go to it day by day.
Tortorella’s very public and very honest take on Dubois is not going to make the situation any better, even if the coach is not to blame for the trade request. Initial reports stated that the Blue Jackets may take their time to deal Dubois, waiting to maximize the return as best they can while he hopefully continues to contribute on the ice. However, if the locker room becomes too toxic with a top player at odds with the head coach and openly opposed to any future with the organization, this situation may need a resolution sooner rather than later. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that suitors are already serious about adding Dubois, so if the Blue Jackets need to make a quick trade, they will still have plenty of offers to choose from.
- The Montreal Canadiens were able to get under the salary cap ceiling, but it was a tight fit. CapFriendly shows the club with only $708K in space for just a 21-man roster. If the Habs want the flexibility to even field a full roster never mind make a trade addition this season, someone has to go. Stu Cowan of the Montreal Gazette writes that the name being whispered is that of Paul Byron. Byron has been a loyal soldier for Montreal over the past five years and has developed into one of the club’s locker room leaders. However, the Canadiens’ off-season additions of Josh Anderson and Tyler Toffoli and the emergence of youngsters Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi have pushed Byron into a seemingly permanent bottom-six role. In fact, Byron played on the team’s fourth line throughout training camp and in Wednesday’s season opener. At a $3.4MM AAV through 2022-23, Byron is an expensive piece to be playing a checking role. The 31-year-old winger has not been durable either over the past couple of seasons either and may be ill-suited for his new position. Byron has scored at nearly a half-point per-game pace over the past four seasons combined and would be more valuable to another team that is able and willing to keep him in a scoring role. The question is whether that destination exists and, if so, will the Habs ultimately pull the trigger on dealing away a respected veteran.
- One player enjoying the spotlight of rumor mill being off him for now is Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba. Dumba has heard the noise for more than a year now, but remains with the Wild; and the talented blue liner is happy about that, he tells TwinCities.com’s Dane Mizutani. Mizutani is not the only one that Dumba has confided in, either. He has also gone directly to GM Bill Guerin and stated that he would like to remain with the team. Guerin will certainly listen to one of his best players, but he has to listen to offers as well with the threat of the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft looming. With fellow top-four defenders Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, and Jonas Brodin all holding No-Movement Clauses in their current contracts and requiring protection from the expansion draft, Dumba would be the odd man out in the standard 7-3 protection scheme. Minnesota will definitely not allow the Seattle Kraken to acquire Dumba for free though, which has prompted his placement on the trade block. However, if Dumba can back up his desire to remain with the Wild with a strong 2020-21 campaign, Guerin may decide to go with the 8-skater protection scheme and expose three forwards rather than the skilled defenseman.