Even though the NHL is playing a reduced 56-game schedule for 2020-21 due to Covid-19, the pandemic hasn’t affected the league when it comes to blockbuster trades. The first major deal of the campaign saw centre Pierre-Luc Dubois and a third-round draft pick in 2022 leave the Columbus Blue Jackets and head to the Winnipeg Jets for forwards Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic.
Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen told the media he had been working on the trade for several days and the timing was right to pull the trigger, especially after the 22-year-old Dubois was recently benched during a game against Tampa Bay and has registered just one goal in five games this season.
Dubois made no secret that he wanted out of Columbus, but it still didn’t stop the restricted free agent from signing a new two-year contract in the offseason for a total of $10 million. Blue Jackets’ head coach John Tortorella had confirmed to the press that Dubois did indeed want to leave even though he led the club in scoring last season with 18 goals and 31 assists for 49 points in 70 games while averaging 17:56 minutes of ice time a night.
Dubois was drafted third overall by Columbus in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft while Laine was taken one spot before him by Winnipeg. Dubois left Columbus with 66 goals, 93 assists and 159 points in 239 contests with another eight goals and 11 helpers for 19 points in 26 playoff outings. Meanwhile, the 22-year-old Laine racked up 140 goals and 110 assists for 250 points in 306 games for Winnipeg with eight goals goals and assists for 16 points in 24 playoff encounters. He’s also a power-play specialist with 52 of his regular-season goals coming with the man advantage.
Last season, Laine posted 28 goals and 35 assists for 63 points in 68 games. His goals total was the lowest in his four-season career but his .93 points-per-game total was his highest. Laine, who will be a restricted free agent at the end of the campaign, hasn’t had much of a chance to pad his numbers this season though. He played in Winnipeg’s season-opener and has been out of action since due to an upper-body injury. However, he lit it up in that game with two goals and an assist. He’s currently in the second and final year of his contract which sees him paid $6.75 million a year.
Columbus GM Kekalainen also stated that he would have traded up at the 2016 Draft if he had the chance at the time as the team would have certainly taken Laine if possible. As for Roslovic, the other player Columbus acquired in the trade, he was an unsigned restricted free agent and quickly inked a two-year deal with the Blue Jackets for a total of $3.8 million. The 23-year-old will be heading home as he’s a native of Columbus who tallied 12 goals and 17 assists for 29 points in 71 games with Winnipeg last season.
Roslovic was chosen 25th overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft and had 26 goals and 41 assists for 67 points in 180 regular-season career games with five assists in his 20 playoff appearances. All three players involved expressed their excitement with the trade but it’s unclear when they’ll be able to suit up for their new teams due to corona-virus quarantine issues, visa issues and Laine’s injury.
This is the first NHL trade to include two players who were chosen in the top-five of the same NHL Draft since January, 1996. At that time, the Ottawa Senators dealt blue liner Bryan Berard, who was drafted first overall in1995, along with forward Martin Straka and goaltender Don Beaupre to the New York Islanders for rearguard Wade Redden, who was drafted second overall, and goalie Damian Rhodes.