Inside The Box: Assessing the best trade destinations for Pierre-Luc Dubois

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How do you solve a problem like Pierre-Luc Dubois? It is a very good question and it seems that trading away the unhappy star might be the only solution for the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have been here before.

Yes, still recovering from losing the likes of Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene and Sergei Bobrovsky, who all didn’t see a long-term future in Columbus, Ohio, the Blue Jackets now face the very real prospect of having to wave goodbye to another talent in Dubois.

Now, the 22-year-old did sign a two-year, $10 million contract extension on New Year’s Eve, but reports of discontent within Dubois’ camp had already started to leak out earlier that day, and now Columbus Head Coach John Tortorella has confirmed that his No. 1 pivot does indeed want out and also made it abundantly clear that he won’t put up with any nonsense.

So, with all that said, it does appear as though an ugly divorce between player and franchise is more than likely and, given his age, production so far and his incredibly high upside, there will be a boatload of teams interested in helping Pierre-Luc Dubois to escape from the Columbus Blue Jackets.

After all, Dubois is a special talent and it isn’t often that 22-year-old centers built on size and power with a bucketload of skill thrown in for good measure become available, plus the production is already there with 158 points (65 G, 93 A) in 235 career NHL regular-season games, including 49 points (18 G, 31 A) in 70 games in 2019-20.

Therefore, I am going to map out what I think will be the best destinations for the forward based on fit and whether the teams in question will have enough assets to make a deal work. Let’s dive right in…

Pierre-Luc Dubois (18), Artemi Panarin (9)

Pierre-Luc Dubois #18 of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Artemi Panarin #9. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

1. New York Rangers

Okay, so maybe I am a bit biased putting the New York Rangers first given that I am a Blueshirts fan, but this does make a lot of sense for all parties concerned for a plethora of different reasons.

Firstly, the Rangers are in very real need of a true second-line center to form a lethal one-two punch behind Mika Zibanejad, who is well on his way to establishing himself as one of the best pivots in the NHL. Yes, they do have Ryan Strome who has flourished in The Big Apple with 92 points (36 G, 56 A) in 134 regular-season games for the Blueshirts, but that may have more to do with having Artemi Panarin on his line than anything else.

However, Strome is not a long-term second-line center option for the Rangers and Dubois is a clear upgrade. Plus, Dubois has worked with Rangers President John Davidson in Columbus while he also developed lethal chemistry with Panarin with the Blue Jackets, so Dubois would be coming into a situation where he would feel comfortable and he’d also likely anchor a second line with Panarin on it.

Dubois reunited with Panarin would spell trouble for the rest of the NHL, while the Rangers would all of a sudden be formidable down the middle with Zibanejad, Dubois and then Filip Chytil on the third-line, so it wouldn’t surprise me if they were serious players in trade talks and then signed Dubois to a long-term deal if they were to pull the trigger on a trade.

The caveat here is that the Blue Jackets would probably be reluctant to send a rising star to another team in their Division – which the Rangers are in normal times – but if New York could send a package over featuring Strome, either Kaapo Kakko or Pavel Buchnevich and a high pick, then it might be enough to convince Columbus General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen to say yes.

Pierre-Luc Dubois (18)

Pierre-Luc Dubois #18 of the Columbus Blue Jackets. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

2. Anaheim Ducks

The Anaheim Ducks need a true heir to Ryan Getzlaf who is in the final year of an eight-year, $88 million contract and, while likely to re-sign, it will only be a short-term deal. Plus, with the veteran showing signs of regression, now is probably the time to start looking towards the future.

Therefore, Pierre-Luc Dubois could be an attractive option for Ducks General Manager Bob Murray. After all, he’s built in the image of Getzlaf in that he’s 6-foot-3 and 218 pounds, but he also has a lot of skill with a hell of a lot of high offensive upside. In other words, Dubois is basically a young Ryan Getzlaf.

Still only 22-years-old too, Dubois fits in perfectly with Anaheim’s current timeline when it comes to rebuilding this team, and the left-shot could slot in on the second-line until Getzlaf retires before moving up to the top line and becoming the new face of this franchise, who lack real star power and could do with a real cornerstone piece after Getzlaf does call it quits.

And, long-term, Dubois could become a real pillar of the Ducks along with prospect forward Trevor Zegras, and the two could really help to spearhead a return to true competitiveness for this team. Plus, Anaheim has the assets to make a trade of this scale work while it would take Pierre-Luc Dubois out of the Eastern Conference, which would be a selling point for the Blue Jackets.

Pierre-Luc Dubois (18)

Pierre-Luc Dubois #18 of the Columbus Blue Jackets. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

3. Montreal Canadiens

There is a lot of smoke surrounding the Montreal Canadiens and Pierre-Luc Dubois right now, and I can see why General Manager Marc Bergevin would be interested. After all, he constructed a roster built on size and power during the offseason and Dubois would slot in perfectly.

Now, you might say that Montreal doesn’t need a center anymore given that they have Phillip Danault, who is a UFA after this season, and two young studs in Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi down the middle. However, not only is Dubois a potential elite pivot, but he’s also French-Canadian and he just seems perfect for that market.

It would require a lot to trade for Dubois, however, and you would imagine that the Columbus Blue Jackets would ask for either Suzuki or Kotkaniemi in return, in addition to another piece and a high Draft pick, which is certainly a hefty haul. But we know Bergevin loves to make a huge trade and shake things up, and it might be too tempting to pass down the opportunity to acquire a player in the ilk of Pierre-Luc Dubois, who could become the face of your franchise and a real icon in what is one of the biggest markets on the planet.

Patrik Laine, Pierre-Luc Dubois

Winnipeg Jets second overall pick Patrik Laine, and Columbus Blue Jackets third overall pick Pierre-Luc Dubois. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

4. Winnipeg Jets

This one makes sense because both franchises have problems that they will need to solve in the not-too-distant future. The Columbus Blue Jackets obviously have Pierre-Luc Dubois, while the Winnipeg Jets also have a disgruntled star in Patrik Laine. So, what about a straight swap between the two teams?

Okay, so there might have to be additional sweeteners kicked in by Columbus just to get it done given that Laine is arguably the better player with more upside, but you do have to wonder if Laine would be any happier in Columbus than he is in Winnipeg. I mean, you can’t imagine Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen would want to have to deal with yet another big name wanting out of his organization.

Both Laine and Dubois are soon-to-be RFA’s so the Jets and Columbus would need some assurances over what both players’ long-term plans are before pulling the trigger on a trade, but it does make sense for both teams. I mean, the Blue Jackets would be getting a legit star back which would soften the blow of losing Dubois, while Dubois would slot in as Winnipeg’s long-term No. 2 center behind Mark Scheifele, and Paul Stastny could drop down to the third-line which would give them tremendous strength down the middle.

It would also mean that the Winnipeg Jets wouldn’t have to rush along Cole Perfetti, who was the 10th overall pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, and it would give that team long-term strength and depth in one of the more important positions in all of hockey, while ridding them of a headache in Patrik Laine.

Pierre-Luc Dubois (18)

Pierre-Luc Dubois #18 of the Columbus Blue Jackets. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)

5. Boston Bruins

It has surprised me that I haven’t heard the Boston Bruins linked with Pierre-Luc Dubois more. Am I missing something? This is a trade that would make a hell of a lot of sense for the B’s in particular.

With Patrice Bergeron not getting any younger at 35-years-old and David Krejci a UFA after this season, the Bruins need to start planning for the future when it comes to down the middle, and Dubois would be a perfect replacement for Krejci and a long-term heir to Bergeron.

Boasting size, power and skill, Dubois is perfectly built for Boston Bruins hockey and he could be their No. 1 center of the future, especially given that there isn’t much in the pipeline currently. There is Jack Studnicka, who will get a shot at the NHL this year, but he likely would have to be included as part of a package for Dubois, along with potentially Jake DeBrusk or a top-four defenseman in the ilk of Brandon Carlo in order to get this done.

But, with their two franchise centers nearing the end of their careers, it would be wise for Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney to at least kick the tyres on Pierre-Luc Dubois because, let’s be honest, how often does a 22-year-old center boasting skill and power come along? Not often at all and, if they aren’t careful, the B’s could be left significantly weak down the middle in the next couple of years if they don’t make a big move soon.