You get a disgruntled player. And you get a disgruntled player.
Nothing like swapping unhappy guys to make everyone happy.
The Blue Jackets and Jets solved their internal dramas on Saturday morning in a three-player deal that sent Patrik Laine and restricted free agent Jack Roslovic to Columbus and Pierre-Luc Dubois (plus a pick) to Winnipeg.
All three players expressed the desire for a change of scenery, with Roslovic even staying unsigned. Dubois had an interesting couple of days where he spent the majority of Thursday’s game riding the pine. Coach John Tortorella said it was due to a culmination of things. But video showed him looking less than enthused in what ended up being Dubois’ last shift as a Blue Jacket. That was probably the last straw.
Of course, there has been a lot of comments on social media regarding the two destinations as not ideal locales, but players on both sides of the swap have hometown connections: Roslovic is a Columbus native and Dubois’ dad, Eric, is an assistant coach with the Jets AHL farm team, the Manitoba Moose. Laine and Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen also know each other with their Finnish connected involvement in Finland’s 2016 World Cup team.
The one wrinkle this year is players will not be able to join their new clubs right away because of COVID-19 quarantines. Dubois is subject to a 14-day quarantine under Canadian federal law, while Laine has at least seven days — and multiple tests to take — under the NHL’s guidelines. Roslovic has been in Ohio and, per Kekalainen, is already under the team’s COVID-19 protocols. He could be cleared in 48 hours.
It’ll be a few weeks before we know how things truly shake out but, for now, here’s how the teams did:
Blue Jackets received from Winnipeg:
Patrik Laine (F) and Jack Roslovic (F)
Of course, Dubois has next year on his contract. Laine does not.
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) January 23, 2021
After the trade, Roslovic signed a two-year, $3.8 million contract ($1.9 million AAV) through the 2021-22 season
Jets received from Columbus:
Pierre-Luc Dubois (F) and a 2022 third-round pick
Jets grade: A
The Jets’ center depth was already solid, and now it may just be the best in the NHL. Dubois is a top-tier centerman who brings with him 159 points in 238 games across four NHL seasons. While he has only scored one goal this season in what we’ll call limited ice time, he does boast a 54.1 win percentage at the faceoff dot. The Jets, as a team, are at 47.9 percent; center Mark Scheifele has a team-best 52.9.
“It’s an opportunity that we feel is a better fit right now from a positional standpoint within our organization, given the elite wingers we do have in our organization,” said GM Kevin Cheveldayoff adding the team has talented 2020 first-rounder Cole Perfetti waiting in the wings too. “When you get the opportunity to acquire a positional need for now and the future, you have to make those tough decisions. With the strength of the contracts we have with our wingers it fell into place and I needed to make this move.”
Dubois, 22, undoubtedly makes the Jets better at center, a position at which the team has struggled since Bryan Little went down last year with a head injury (he has not returned since). The team did acquire ex-Jet Paul Stastny in an October deal to provide some depth, but coach Paul Maurice did note that moving him to the wing is an option. Scheifele is slotted as the No. 1 center, but when you look at the analytics on Natural Stat Trick, Dubois has a smidge more oomph at 5 vs. 5. And, no disrespect to the Blue Jackets wingers, but he wasn’t playing with the talent that Scheifele was.
Mark Scheifele vs. Pierre-Luc Dubois at 5v5 (2017-18 to 2019-20)
As Cheveldayoff said, the Jets are a dangerous team to play night-in and night-out with their wingers and, now the guys down the middle.
“He really is a tremendous centerman,” Winnipeg captain Blake Wheeler said post-trade. “Certainly, over the last couple of years he’s developed into a very dynamic, powerful player down the middle. That’s kind of how you build teams to have success, and success in the playoffs — you have to have depth down the middle.”
As the GM noted, Dubois’ playoff prowess served as an enticing factor. He was a key force in bubble hockey for Columbus, collecting 10 points (four goals, six assists) in 10 games with a 55.87 face-off win percentage and an overtime game-winner to cap a hat trick against the Maple Leafs.
“Obviously very excited,” added Nikolaj Ehlers, who faced off against Dubois in the QMJHL in 2014-15. “Everyone knows he’s a great player. He’s a big guy and he can skate, make plays and he’s a very smart player. It’s going to be fun to have him on the team and we’re excited for him to get here.”
Blue Jackets grade: A-
In his presser, Kekalainen noted that the team drafted Dubois at No. 3 overall in 2016 and would have loved to have moved up to No. 2, if given the chance. Five years later, the Blue Jackets GM got his man.
“I think he’s an excellent power-play player and often people think of him as a shooter — which, he is a great shooter — but he’s also a great passer, and those things excite me a lot,” Kekalainen said of Laine on a Zoom call with reporters. “We have a weapon for the power play that we may have not had before.”
“…One of the things I’m really good & if I can help the team, it doesn’t matter if it’s goal-scoring, I’m just trying to try to be out there to help out the guys & bring & do whatever I can do to make the team win.”
Also said that the trade was “kind of a shock.”
— Jackie Spiegel (@jackiespiegel93) January 23, 2021
Laine is an elite goal scorer who brings 140 goals in 306 games. He potted 36 in his rookie year, an impressive 44 the next season, followed by 30 and then 28 in the shortened season (he was on pace for 33). Only eight players have scored more goals since his debut. In the Jets’ first game of the 2021 season, he scored two goals (along with an assist) including the game-winner in overtime.
“I won’t lie. It’s kind of sad,” said the Jets’ Wheeler. “Just rewind four years ago and the excitement when we drafted Patty and the steps our organization has taken and he’s a big part of that. It’s disappointing to be having this conversation. It’s the nature of pro sports and for our organization, we move forward.”
Laine does have some defensive lapses to his game that could irk feisty bench boss Tortorella and it’ll surely be interesting to watch this duo work together. For now, the only issue, aside from quarantining after his visa is approved — which could take some time — is that he hasn’t played a game since that Winnipeg opener. He has been on the shelf with an upper-body injury.
While Laine will add a sniper to Columbus’ lineup that they haven’t seen since the days of Rick Nash, the one guy who should pay dividends immediately is Roslovic. The hometown kid, while not a pure talent like Dubois, could slot in soon — as mentioned, he’s almost through protocol — and will be a nice addition down the middle for the club.
“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.”
Selected 25th overall by Winnipeg in 2015, Roslovic brings 67 points (26 goals, 41 assists) in 180 games to Columbus. In the last two seasons, where he played in 148 games, he saw his ice time, Corsi For percentage at 5 vs. 5 (51.54 in 2019-20) and ixG at 5 vs. 5 (4.54 in 2018-19 to 8.15 last season) all increase, per Natural Stat Trick. Last season he won 47.29 percent of his faceoffs, which is a few ticks higher than other guys — such as Max Domi at 46.8 and Boone Jenner at 46.7 — whom Kekalainen mentioned on the call would slot at center.
Maurice noted that Roslovic, 22, ran into some center depth in Winnipeg with Scheifele, Little and Adam Lowry in front of him. He played the wing some last year too, so he has developed a more overall forward game.
“He skates well, he can handle the puck, he can make plays, he’s got good vision and in great shape. I think playing at home will be real good for him,” added Maurice.
As the Columbus GM said, time will tell how this one shakes out. But, on paper, it does give a boost to the struggling Blue Jackets’ offensive numbers. Entering Saturday’s game against the Lightning, the team ranks 28th in goals per game (2.00) and 25th on the power play (9.1 percent).