Winners and Losers of the Pierre-Luc Dubois-Patrik Laine Trade
One of the most prolific scoring wingers of the last four years, Winnipeg Jets left wing Patrik Laine has long been rumored to want out of Winnipeg. With seemingly disgruntled center Pierre-Luc Dubois wanting out of Columbus, a natural trade partner appeared.
The Jets sent Laine and forward Jack Roslovic to the Blue Jackets in exchange for Dubois and a third-round pick in the 2022 draft Saturday morning. Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen also announced the club signed Columbus native Roslovic, a restricted free agent, to a two-year, $3.8 million contract.
This kind of trade rarely happens in the NHL. Teams don't give up players as young and talented as Laine and Dubois. And on paper, this doesn't necessarily fill a need for either team. The Blue Jackets have a surplus of wingers and the Jets have too many centers.
Ultimately, both players wanted out and the price was right for both clubs.
"I think the best trades are always trades that help both teams and I think in this case that's what happened," Kekalainen said during a Zoom press conference following the trade. "They're going to get a good player. We're going to get two good players, and we'll both move on."
Here are the winners and losers of the young NHL season's first big trade.
Winner: The Blue Jackets' Power Play
The Columbus power play has scored exactly one goal in 11 tries. The power play was dismal last season as well after the departure of Artemi Panarin. The Blue Jackets converted only 16.1 percent of their extra-man opportunities, and Kekalainen saw an opportunity to give the power play a significant boost early in the season.
"We have a weapon for the power play that we may have not had before," Kekalainen said. "But it's gonna take a five-man unit. And I think that we've had some really good moments on the power play this year even though we've only scored one goal so far in it, but ... both those guys potentially will add into our skill, offense and power play."
The Blue Jackets don't need another winger, but if one of Laine's caliber is available, then you don't pass up the opportunity. His 138 goals in the past four seasons is tied for seventh in the NHL over that span. He once scored five goals in a 2018 game. He brings exceptional speed and a lightning-quick release.
Winner: Jack Roslovic
The 23-year-old prospect went from being a useful role player to a key piece of the lineup for his hometown team. Kekalainen wants to move him back to his natural center position to help make up for the center depth left behind by Dubois. The Miami (Ohio) product is coming off a career year with 12 goals and 29 points, but his path to a top-six role was blocked by other players on the roster.
"We expect Jack Roslovic to be able to play center for us," Kekalainen said. "He's a good playmaker, he's a good passer, he's got great speed. And, again, he's going to have to earn his ice time with the coach. We fully believe that he's going to add to our center position and bring skill down the middle, and time will tell how it goes."
Roslovic has become an ambassador of sorts for the city of Columbus. He helps out with youth hockey teams, even recently running a practice for a Triple-A team. His family has had season tickets to Blue Jackets games since their first season in 2000, and he grew up wanting to wear blue, saying, "This is what they dream about."
Columbus may not be a hockey hotbed, but he thinks it will be impactful for kids to see that it's possible for the hometown product to eventually grow up and play professionally for the hometown team.
"I've watched this team grow, and I've watched this city grow," he said. "It's not even close to its potential. I'm super excited to be a part of it. Anyone who wants to tell me differently, I'll be more than happy to try to persuade them the other way."
The Blue Jackets will also benefit from Roslovic being a local in another way. The myriad quarantine restrictions and the COVID-19 protocols in place this season create some complications for trades and signings. Teams will not get to use their players right away, especially if they're going from the United States to Canada, like Dubois is doing.
Without a contract, Roslovic was unable to obtain a work visa to get into Canada, so he was already in Ohio when the trade went down. He could potentially bypass all of the quarantine restrictions and be available in 48 hours. He has already been placed on the protocol list and will go through the necessary testing.
Loser: Making an Immediate Impact
In the long term, this is a win for Dubois and the Jets. The Jets will have a one-two punch up the middle with Dubois and Mark Scheifele.
But because of the nature of the pandemic, he won't be playing in the near future.
The 22-year-old will need to complete the full 14-day quarantine mandated by the Canadian government. The Jets are trying to expedite that process, negative tests permitting. In his Zoom press conference, Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said the team is looking into getting a private flight for Dubois. In addition, the club requested an exemption to see if the seven-day quarantine process that was allowed for training camp can be applied now.
According to TSN's Darren Dreger, the seven Canadian teams have asked the federal government to cut the 14-day quarantine in half and adopt the same mandate as the one that currently exists in the United States.
It's probably safe to say Dubois will not be available for two weeks, at least until there is more information from the Canadian government.
The Blue Jackets to get Laine, who is on injured reserve with an upper-body injury, in about a week. The Finnish winger will need to obtain a work visa and quarantine and will need to test negative four times (on Days 1, 3, 5 and 7) in order to join the team. He said his injury is minor enough that he should be ready to play when he is cleared to play again after the necessary coronavirus testing.
Winners: John Tortorella and Paul Maurice
The Dubois drama was strange right from the start. It's rare that a 22-year-old with talent like that ends up on the trade market, especially after signing a two-year contract extension as an RFA on New Year's Eve. But rumors about his desire to leave Columbus had already started at the time of his signing.
Tortorella confirmed as much on the radio last week. Anyone who watched Dubois could see he was clearly dogging it during practices and games. He forced the Blue Jackets' hand when he played so poorly in the first period of the team's Thursday home opener that Tortorella benched him for the last two periods.
His final shift was a nine-second skate to the bench while the Tampa Bay Lightning took the puck into the Columbus zone. There was clearly no love lost between him and the team. Kekalainen said it was "not bittersweet at all" to let go of a player drafted so high and attempted to put an end to the notion that Tortorella drives players away.
"No, no [he's] not," he said, when asked if Tortorella was a reason behind the trade. "The management team, we do this together. I always stay in communication with the head coach, obviously, because it's a team that he coaches, so we discuss ideas. I keep them up to date on what's going on with different processes, but it's the management team and me, ultimately, who makes the decision on a trade like this."
Laine never let his team down with a stunt like Dubois', but he also never denied that he wanted out of Winnipeg. Between the salary-cap issues and his reported desire to play elsewhere, it always seemed inevitable. It's better to make the move now and not let the situation go on throughout yet another season.
Tortorella and Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice can now get back to business without these distractions hanging over their heads.
Loser: Jets Fans
It's still a bit of a mystery as to how and why the relationship between the Jets and Laine went south. It started off well, with Laine becoming the most exciting Finn to play in Winnipeg since Hall of Fame winger Teemu Selanne. Sure, they had different playing styles and different personalities, but the eccentric Laine was an instant fan favorite.
However, he didn't quite embrace Manitoba the way the Finnish Flash did.
Ken Wiebe of Sportsnet said Laine was frustrated playing on the second line, though that couldn't be the sole reason he wanted a change of scenery. He signed a two-year bridge deal in 2019. Maybe the Jets should have just offered him a long-term contract, but they were already in trouble with the salary cap.
Laine himself didn't shed any light on why he wanted out when he spoke to the media over Zoom on Saturday afternoon.
"I think that's a tough one. It's a tough question. I don't really know," he said. "Right now, I don't even want to think about it. Just going to leave it behind me and take all the great memories I had with this team and my teammates with me and move on. I just think maybe that it wasn't the right fit for me and the team."
Fans have every right to be disappointed that the organization couldn't hang on to one of the biggest stars they've had since the franchise was revived after moving from Atlanta in 2011.
"I think it was a great place to play hockey," Laine said. "Everyone knows how passionate the fans are and how loud the building gets. So it was an awesome place to play hockey. Probably my first game, it was something I will never forget. Playing there in front of the home crowd, in front of my family, that was really special."
Winners: Blockbuster Trades in a Pandemic
Remember June 29, 2016? Remember the phrase, "The trade is one for one?"
Those frenzied minutes in which the Edmonton Oilers sent forward Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils for Adam Larsson, defensemen P.K. Subban and Shea Weber were swapped by the Montreal Canadiens and Nashville Predators and Steven Stamkos signed an eight-year extension with the Tampa Bay Lightning comprised one of the most exciting periods in recent hockey history.
We haven't had a day like that in a long time, but getting a trade like this during a pandemic is close. Maybe this deal can get the ball rolling for others to follow.
With a flat salary cap and all of the quarantine restrictions in place, it might be beneficial for teams to make trades earlier rather than waiting until the April 12 deadline. We might even see more trades within the North Division if the Canadian government doesn't cut the quarantine down to seven days. If a team in the middle of a playoff chase wants their players sooner rather than later, not being able to use them for two weeks is less than ideal.
Fans can't cheer for their teams in the stands, but this gives them something to root for at home.