So far, in the early stages of the abbreviated National Hockey League (NHL) season, there has been a lot to be excited about. For one, hockey is back for the entire league, with several franchises who did not qualify for last year’s postseason bubble playing their first games in approximately ten months. Adding to the beginning of the season buzz are the new divisional alignments that are in place to help teams cut down travel amidst the pandemic. Teams only play other teams in their division, often playing each other multiple times a week, which has resulted in some intense matchups and a whole lot of bad blood.
But as the NBA can attest to with the league-altering James Harden deal, there is simply nothing like a monumental and dramatic trade to jumpstart the season. On January 23, the Columbus Blue Jackets traded center Pierre Luc Dubois and a 2022 third-round pick to the Winnipeg Jets for wingers Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic. Laine, a big and explosive sniper, and Dubois, a smooth-skating and skilled two-way center, were the second and third picks of the 2016 NHL draft behind Toronto Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews and are two exciting young guns in the league.
While these two young talents will soon settle in for their new teams, it is hard to ignore the saga that got them to their new destinations. All throughout the offseason, rumors were circulating about Laine being on the trade block for the Jets, who wanted to focus on adding depth to their center ice position. As the season rolled around, there undoubtedly was tension for Laine in the media surrounding his uncertain future with the team.
However, Laine’s drama seems like absolutely nothing when compared to what Dubois experienced during his final months as a Blue Jacket. Before the season began, reports surfaced that the 22 year-old Canadian had requested a trade out of Columbus. Head Coach John Tortorella, who has a reputation as being one of the most fiery, no-nonsense bench bosses in the league, was not amused. Torts repeatedly expressed his frustration with Dubois’ attitude to the media, and stated that Dubois had not given any concrete reasons as to why he wanted to leave. This tension resulted in some head-scratching moments once the season began. Through his first four games, Dubois only averaged 17 minutes of ice time, and in his fifth game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, he played a shocking 3:55. Ultimately, Jackets General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen had no choice but to trade away a player that the organization spent several years developing into a rising star.
So, who won this monster of a trade? At the moment, it is hard to say, it will all depend on how the promising futures of Laine and Dubois unfold and what they can achieve with their new franchises. For now, the Blue Jackets have their hands on a 22-year old Finn who has amassed at least thirty goals in all but one of his first four NHL seasons, and should help them in the goal scoring department that has been lacking since Artemi Panarin and Matt Duchene left town. Winnipeg now possesses a strong one-two punch up the middle with Dubois and Marc Schiefele, as they look to compete against some other incredible center-ice tandems in this season’s Canadian division. Overall, both Winnipeg and Columbus now have core talents that they hope will carry them for years to come.