Goodbye Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic. Hello, Pierre-Luc Dubois.
The Winnipeg Jets and Columbus Blue Jackets swung a blockbuster trade Saturday, one that shakes up the foundation of both clubs and got the hockey world buzzing. Laine, 22, and Roslovic, 23, were shipped south in exchange for Dubois, 22, and a third-round draft pick next season.
"I wouldn’t make this trade if it wasn’t something that I felt wasn’t going to help our team get better. Trading a player like Patty, he’s a great person, he has special abilities, it’s tough. But Pierre-Luc Dubois is a big, hard, two-way centreman that makes other people around him better. That’s an important factor if you’re trying to win, and that’s what we’re trying to do here," said Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff.
It's no secret Dubois, drafted third-overall in 2016, desperately wanted a change of scenery despite signing a recent two-year contract extension that pays him $5 million per season. The situation came to a head following Thursday night's game in which he was benched for the last two periods due to what coach John Tortorella felt was a lack of effort.
"We've been working on this for a while and we always said that it could take a while until we find the right deal but if the right deal is on the table, we're ready to move fast," said Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekäläinen.
"We're really excited here. I can tell you right from the draft, we drafted Pierre-Luc three and Patrik Laine was No. 2. We would have given a lot to move up from three to two at that time and we're very excited to have Patrik Laine join us and there's a price to be paid for an elite player like he is. I think Jack Roslovic is going to be huge part of this whole trade. He’s a guy that we wanted to draft, couldn't get it done."
Here in Winnipeg, both Laine and Roslovic had requested trades through their respective agents, believing better opportunities would come in another market. In the end, all three players got their wishes granted.
"In this league, to make a trade of that magnitude, it involves trading those kind of players. Probably a lot of different circumstances that come into play. We live in a cap world, there are always projections of where things may or may not go. But to get a top centre in this environment is virtually unheard of and that’s why the bidding was fast and furious," said Cheveldayoff.
"I’m sure there are lots of teams that were in on this, just judging by the conversations that we’ve heard were out there, with respect to the other team’s interest. So, getting a player that is coming into his prime down the middle is something we wouldn’t have done. We wouldn’t have moved a Patrik Laine for anyone that didn’t fit that certain criteria of a top centreman or a top defenceman. When that opportunity presented itself, I felt it was necessary that we made that move."
The 6 foot 3 inch, 218 pound Dubois is a true power forward, with 66 goals and 93 assists in 239 career games, including one goal in five contests this year. There's also a family connection to Winnipeg that could pay off — his father, Eric, is an assistant coach with the Manitoba Moose.
He gives the Jets tremendous depth up the middle, along with Mark Scheifele, Paul Stastny and Adam Lowry, along with Cole Perfetti, taken 10th-overall in the 2020 draft, waiting in the wings. Andrew Copp can also play centre, and the Jets also have veteran Nate Thompson (currently injured) and sophomore NHLers Jansen Harkins and David Gustafsson for spots as well.
"That’s going to be the strength of our organization," said Cheveldayoff, who indicated Stastny might eventually shift to the wing to make room for Dubois in Winnipeg's top six forward group.
"If you look at Pierre-Luc’s analytics, if you look at how he drives plays through the middle of the ice, if you look at his performance in the playoffs, those are enticing things in that regard. He’s looking for that opportunity to play in a market that’s crazy about hockey. He’s kind of a hockey nut himself."
The one-of-a-kind Laine, with his big personality and even bigger shot, was taken one pick before Dubois and has 140 goals and 110 assists in 306 career games. He is playing for $6.75 million this season and will be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer. His last game with the Jets was a memorable one. He had two goals, including the overtime winner, and an assist in the season-opener on Jan. 14 against Calgary. He'd missed the last three games with an upper-body injury.
Laine can enter unrestricted free agency following the 2022-23 season, while Dubois could do the same after 2023-24, if they are not signed to long-term extensions before then. In that sense, the true value of this trade may be impossible to judge until we see how the future plays out.
"We're giving up an elite shooter that I firmly believe is going to develop into a strong, very powerful power forward. And then we're going to get a power forward that I think is going to develop into an elite point-producer. So different starting points. They'll both get to, in my mind, at the end of their career the same place. They're both going to be big, powerful men that'll drive play and drive offence," said Jets coach Paul Maurice.
Much has been made of Laine wanting out, primarily due to what he felt was being blocked from playing top-line minutes with Scheifele.
"I would say all of it would be on me. That's the environment that you're trying to create for each player is for them to feel like they have the opportunity to be at their best. And that's the function of my job, whether you can get it to that. I would suggest to you that when Patrik came in and worked as hard as he did this year, we were kind of constantly trying to work on that. Trying to constantly get to the point where Patrik appreciated who he was playing with, and the opportunity he was given," said Maurice.
"And felt we had made great strides with that coming into this year. It's the head coach's responsibility, so I'll take all of that. But I'll make sure that I would take, then the responsibility for some of these other young players that are developing incredibly well and having great success here."
Roslovic was taken 25th overall in the 2015 draft. The Columbus native was a restricted free agent who had yet to sign a new deal with the Jets this season. He has 26 goals and 41 assists in 180 career games. Following the trade, the Blue Jackets inked Roslovic to a two-year extension worth $1.9 million per season. He will likely slot in at centre with Columbus, a position he desired to play in Winnipeg.
"I think playing at home will be real good for him. At the end of the day, in a real unusual set of circumstances between Columbus and Winnipeg, this is going to work out for both teams and all teams involved," said Maurice.
Laine must acquire a work visa, and get healthy and undergo quarantine in the U.S., before he can step into the Blue Jackets lineup. Roslovic's debut should come much quicker, since he's remained in Ohio the entire time.
As for Dubois, the Jets were arranging a charter flight for him to get him to Winnipeg, where he will have to self-isolate for 14 days before he can join his new team. Cheveldayoff said they are currently talking with federal government and health officials about whether a modified seven-day quarantine can be applied, as it was for all NHL players in Canadian markets during training camps earlier this month.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.