The Pierre-Luc Dubois saga which so quickly escalated in Columbus came to a quick solution as the Blue Jackets made a trade with Winnipeg, sending their top center to the Jets for All-Star forward Patrik Laine.
The swap of disgruntled 22-year-old forwards — Laine’s agents reportedly told management during the offseason the team should think about trading him — may not be the landing point either player wanted but gives their new teams some fresh talent.
The Blue Jackets also got center Jack Roslovic back in the deal as the Columbus native would not sign a contract with the Jets this season and had been working out with the Jackets’ junior team.
Columbus sent back Dubois and a third-round pick.
Florida had interest in acquiring Dubois but once the bidding war opened between multiple teams, things got too rich for the Panthers’ blood.
For Winnipeg, they acquire a first-line center who will likely take over the second line with Mark Scheifele up top.
As would have been the case with the Panthers and Sasha Barkov, adding a second high-end center gives Winnipeg a very powerful 1-2 punch up the middle.
Laine, who incidentally is one of Barkov’s closest friends, gives the Blue Jackets some serious scoring pop and a nice right-side pairing with either Cam Atkinson, Oliver Bjorkstrand or Boone Jenner.
In his four NHL seasons, Laine has scored at least 30 goals in three of them; he was at 28 last year when the NHL cut short his season.
The Panthers visit Columbus on Tuesday although it is not known whether Laine would be in the lineup due either because of COVID-19 quarantine or U.S. visa issues.
Florida plays at Columbus on Tuesday and Thursday, so it could be possible Laine makes his Jackets’ debut in the second game.
Roslovic should be able to play right away as he has been working out in Columbus.
Dubois is in his fourth NHL season after being the third-overall pick of the 2016 draft.
He made his debut in 2017 by playing on the fourth line but by December, had replaced now-Florida center Alex Wennberg on the Jackets’ top line.
Dubois told the Jackets he wanted to be traded despite the team still holding his rights for the next four seasons.
A restricted free agent, Dubois signed a two-year, $10 million contract with Columbus just before training camp opened.
Coach John Tortorella and Dubois both said they did not think Dubois’ trade demands would affect things, but on Thursday night in Columbus’ home opener, the situation apparently boiled to a head.
Dubois was pulled by Tortorella following a lackadaisical shift early in the first period and he was benched for the remainder of the game, a 3-2 overtime loss to the Lightning.
Tortorella did not go into much detail on the benching following Thursday’s game, but did so on Friday after Dubois took part in an optional practice.
In 239 games with the Blue Jackets, Dubois has 66 goals with 159 points and was part of three playoff teams.
“He doesn’t get benched for one shift last night,’’ Tortorella said per the Associated Press.
“This has eroded and it just kept eroding in the first five games. And I think a lot of people are putting a bigger deal on it because of the extenuating circumstances. …
“I’m just coaching athletes, and I will not allow our standard of play and our culture and how we go about our business here change.’’
Dubois, who declined comment Thursday, also spoke the day after, saying whenever he gets back into the lineup, he would be better.
Aaron Portzline of The Athletic reported Friday night that per a source, Dubois was not going to be in the Jackets’ lineup Saturday afternoon against the Lightning — even if he was still with the team.
Sense is GM Jarmo Kekalainen was taking a patient approach to trading Dubois, but Thursday made a trade more urgent.
— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) January 23, 2021
“My play hasn’t been at the level that it can be at. Then what happened last night, that’s a coach’s decision,’’ said Dubois, who has a goal in Columbus’ first five games this season.
“The coach is paid to coach, and the players are paid to play, and there’s not much I can control in that decision.”
Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen was thought to have taken Dubois’ trade request but was not expected to act on anything — as he did not following similar requests by now former Blue Jackets Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin.
Thursday’s firestorm apparently sped things up.
“Different situations,” Tortorella said of the Bobrovsky/Panarin final season in 2018-19. Both left that offseason as free agents, Bobrovsky signing with Florida and his best friend going to the Rangers.
“Bread and Bob, their contracts were up. They have a right to go to free agency, they played their asses off that year. Two great pros. … They were pros and they played.”
As for Laine, there were reports he may not report to Winnipeg’s training camp although that ended up not being the case.
Laine, 22, did not refute his agent’s trade hints from October when he spoke to the Winnipeg media early in camp.
As is the case with Dubois, Laine is also a restricted free agent. Columbus also traded RFA forward Josh Anderson to Montreal this offseason for Max Domi.
“Right now I’m here. I’m excited to play. I’m in good shape,’’ said Laine, who hails from Barkov’s hometown of Tampere, Finland.
“I’m going to be a new player this year and I just want to play well. That’s going to be best for both parties. What happens in the future, that’s not even my call. I’m going to work hard every night and that’s all I can do.”