NHL Rumor Mill – January 22, 2021
Pierre-Luc Dubois’ benching raises more speculation over his future with the Blue Jackets, plus the latest on the Penguins in today’s NHL rumor mill.
LATEST DUBOIS SPECULATION
THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline believes the Columbus Blue Jackets’ efforts to manage Pierre-Luc Dubois’ situation following his trade request may be spiraling out of control after he saw less than four minutes of ice time in yesterday’s 3-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The 22-year-old center was benched for the final two periods of regulation and overtime.
Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella wouldn’t talk about why he benched Dubois while the center declined to be interviewed. General manager Jarmo Kekalainen has taken multiple calls on Dubois but Portzline said it’s unclear how he’s hoped to handle this. It was assumed Kekalainen wanted to get through this season before trading Dubois.
Portzline said sources say the relationship between Dubois and Tortorella isn’t the direct reason he’s requested a trade. The Jackets coach said the onus is on the player to determine their ice time. “You’re going to get out there if you play the proper way,” he said.
SI.COM: Ken Campbell believes the skids are being greased for Dubois’ departure from the Blue Jackets. This has become an untenable situation that must be addressed sooner rather than later. He wondered if Dubois is trying to force a trade with his indifferent play against the Lightning or if Tortorella has had enough of the drama of players who want out of Columbus.
Campbell expects Kekalainen will receive multiple calls from his peers around the league. He doubts Dubois’ value in the trade market will be diminished, pointing out the center is a known commodity around the league who’s also under contract through 2021-22.
Dubois’ situation has been compared to the departures of Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky nearly two years ago. However, those players didn’t request trades but merely indicated they would test the free-agent market when their contracts expired.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t doubt Kekalainen preferred to hang onto Dubois for the remainder of this season and then attempt to shop him this summer when it’s easier to swing major trades. Last night’s incident, however, suggests that might not be an option if this situation grows toxic.
Kekalainen could meet with Dubois and Tortorella to settle things down. Perhaps Dubois’ teammates will weigh in on the situation before it gets out of control.
There’s no question Dubois has considerable value in the trade market. Almost a dozen teams have been linked to him, maybe more. Finding a suitable offer, however, is the sticking point.
Unless Kekalainen decides to blow up his roster and rebuild he won’t want a return of draft picks and prospects. He’ll want a scoring forward who can have an immediate positive effect upon the roster, preferably a center to replace Dubois. If a one-for-one swap like that isn’t available, he’ll want a couple of promising NHL-ready players as part of a package deal.
The rules on non-essential travel between the United States and Canada will affect attempts by Canadian teams to acquire Dubois. It’s been pointed out that the acquiring Canadian team would have to wait two weeks for Dubois to complete his self-quarantine period before he would join the roster. Meanwhile, that club would also be without the assets they gave up to acquire him.
This situation could be resolved in the coming days if Kekalainen finds an acceptable deal. The question is whether that deal is available in-season.
PENGUINS SEEKING A DEFENSEMAN
TSN: Darren Dreger reports injuries to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ blueline has GM Jim Rutherford shopping for a defenseman. He’s in the market for the best one he can find but might have to settle for a third-pairing rearguard.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Just over a week into this season, the Penguins are short three defensemen with Mike Matheson, Marcus Pettersson and Juuso Riikola sidelined by injuries. Cap Friendly indicates they have $1.9 million in cap space but that won’t leave much wiggle room to make an addition.
The Penguins were linked earlier this week to Winnipeg Jets’ winger Jack Roslovic. That’s likely headed to the back-burner with Rutherford seeking to plug holes on his blueline.