NHL Rumor Mill – January 1, 2021
The Blue Jackets signed Pierre-Luc Dubois but trade rumors persist, plus the latest on the Senators in the first NHL rumor mill of 2021.
THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline cites colleague Pierre LeBrun yesterday reporting a few NHL clubs were made aware that Pierre-Luc Dubois is looking at a change of scenery after just three seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Dubois and the Jackets yesterday reached an agreement on a two-year, $10 million contract.
Neither general manager Jarmo Kekalainen or Dubois’ agent would comment on the young center’s rumored request for a trade. Portzline cites a source claiming the relationship between Dubois and the organization changed during contract negotiations in the fall.
The Jackets apparently wanted a long-term contract but Dubois sought a short-term deal that would allow management sufficient time to trade him for a return commensurate with his value. It also keeps Dubois from being locked-in long term with the Jackets.
Dubois didn’t sign an offer sheet but Portzline indicates he did speak with other clubs. It was in those discussions that his desire to leave Columbus became clear.
Portzline suggests Kekalainen’s tendency to take a hard line in contract talks with young players has the consequence of damaging the relationship between the two sides. He cites former Jackets Ryan Johansen and Josh Anderson as notable examples.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: We’ll probably learn more in the coming days from various league insiders over Dubois’ situation, especially regarding the teams he spoke with during his contract negotiations. It’s also been suggested Dubois might not have the best relationship with head coach John Tortorella, who has a reputation as a tough-minded bench boss.
Whatever the reason, Dubois could become a subject of interest in the rumor mill over the course of this season. If there is friction between the center and Kekalainen and/or Tortorella, it could result in his departure via trade this year or next for a player of equal or potentially better value.
Kekalainen could make a one-for-one deal involving Dubois. He shipped Johansen to Nashville for defenseman Seth Jones in a move that proved to be a winner for the Jackets. Anderson was dealt in October to Montreal for Max Domi. Time will tell which club got the better of that move.
OTTAWA SUN: Earlier this week, Ken Warren examined how the recent moves by the Senators have created a logjam at center and on defense. The additions of Derek Stepan and Cedric Paquette gives them five centers. Because there’s limited room to move a center to the wing, Warren suggested moving on from Artem Anisimov. He also believes they’ll have to make a decision on Logan Brown, who’s heading into his third pro season trying to win a permanent spot on the roster.
Warren also pointed out it’s a packed house on the blueline, “with Thomas Chabot, Nikita Zaitsev, Erik Gudbranson, Braydon Coburn, Mike Reilly, Josh Brown, Christian Wolanin, Erik Brannstrom, Artem Zub, Lassi Thomson and Christian Jaros all searching for playing time.” He speculates some of the veterans could be moved by the trade deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Warren believes it could be difficult moving Anisimov because he’s slowed and there might not be many takers for the $1.5 million in actual salary remaining on his contract. Perhaps not now, but he could draw some interest from a playoff contender leading up to the Apr. 12 trade deadline. I expect pending UFA blueliners like Gudbranson, Coburn or Reilly could also hit the trade block later in the season.