With Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella making it clear that his star center Pierre-Luc Dubois definitely wants to be traded out of Columbus, the NHL Trade Chatter went to another level Monday and through the night as the NHL season got underway.
“Yeah, he wants out,” Tortorella made clear on “Rothman and Ice” on 97.1 The Fan in Columbus on Wednesday. “He spoke to the team, as we do here. It’s a little bit different than [Artemi Panarin] and [Sergei Bobrovsky] was. This is a 22-year-old kid. It doesn’t happen that often, so he has been honest with the group. 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 won’t.”
According to two NHL sources, two teams that have now jumped into the NHL Trade fray with Dubois are the Florida Panthers and the New Jersey Devils.
The rebuilding Devils have Jack Hughes, the 2019 first overall pick at the NHL Draft, but would love to get bigger and more skilled up the middle, and the 6-foot-3, 218-pound Dubois certainly would help there. The Devils have $7.3 million in salary cap space and the feel is new General manager Tom Fitzgerald won’t be shy on the NHL trade market if the right deal presents itself.
Meanwhile, new Panther General Manager Bill Zito, was the Assistant GM in Columbus when the Jackets selected Dubois third overall at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Zito has also known Blue Jackets General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen since 1995 and their early days as NHL agents.
As one of the sources pointed out, he knows Dubois’ game well and it fits right in with how he’s trying to reshape the Panthers.
Zito and the Panthers have just $2.7 million but are trying to trade veteran defenseman Keith Yandle and the three years left on his contract that carries a $6.3 million cap hit annually. It should be noted that Yandle has a full no-movement and no-trade clause. Chances are with the mass exodus out of Columbus in recent years, Yandle wouldn’t waive those to go there.
The other teams believed to have more than lukewarm or exploratory interest are the Winnipeg Jets, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings, and Anaheim Ducks.
As reported here two weeks ago, Dubois is a player the Boston Bruins have looked into on the NHL Trade market but there’s been no word on if they tried to take it to another level. Based on what Tortorella said of Dubois’ desire to leave on Wednesday though, Bruins GM Don Sweeney might circle back now.
Some have speculated that Tortorella may actually be the reason the third pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft wants out of Columbus. Dubois and his coach have butted heads more than once since he entered the league in 2017-18 and most recently on the bench during the 2020 NHL Return over the summer.
So does Tortorella think that’s the reason Dubois wants a trade?
“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.”
Kekalainen has not publicly said whether the Blue Jackets would trade the 22-year old Dubois, who in just his third season led his team with 49 points (18 goals, 31 assists) in 70 games last season. It appears this time though he, even though Dubois just signed a two-year contract worth $10 million and doesn’t have a no-movement or no-trade clause, it may be just better off for the team and player to part ways sooner than later.