Who doesn’t love trade rumors? Well, it’s been a long offseason with a lack of rumors, so this is a rather big one. It has been reported that Columbus Blue Jackets center, Pierre-Luc Dubois has requested a trade. The third overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft recently signed a 2-year contract with the Blue Jackets with a average annual value of $5 million.
Blue Jackets Head Coach, John Tortorella, described the situation in the tweet above. When the coach of the team is saying that it’ll be hard to coach Dubois after the trade request, this could get really interesting as the season moves on. Tortorella’s known for not holding back in interviews, but his recent comments on the Dubois situation are not going to make it easy on Blue Jackets GM, Jarmo Kekalainen, who was expected to take a more patient approach with this player.
I personally don’t think that Dubois will be traded until the offseason. The Blue Jackets have dealt with many issues like this throughout the last five or so years with Ryan Johansen, Artemi Panarin, and Sergei Bobrovsky. Jarmo Kekalainen is no stranger to this, I expect him to stay patient and try and resolve the situation in time.
Regardless of Kekalainen’s thoughts on the situation, that’s not going to stop teams from calling. It’s already been reported that more than half of the league has kicked tires on Dubois, and they are “not messing around.”
One of those teams who have inquired on Dubois, none other than the Buffalo Sabres
Pay no attention to Alex Barkov, who TSN’s Darren Dreger mentioned as another player the Sabres have made calls about. Teams are calling the Panthers about Barkov’s availability but they have no intention on trading him. Even if they did, I find it hard to believe that Florida would trade Barkov to Buffalo, as they will be in the same division again next season. Dubois on the other hand is a really interesting trade idea for the Sabres. When a player like Dubois requests a trade, it shouldn’t be surprising when just about every team in the league comes calling. Sabres GM, Kevyn Adams, wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t at least ask.
Dubois would slot in at 2C in Buffalo and brings a lot of attributes to the table that would be very desirable for a team looking to break a nine year long playoff drought. Dubois would bring a two-way dimensional game to the top of the lineup that they haven’t had since Ryan O’Reilly was here, and I believe that he can fill the hole that Jason Botterill left behind when the former Conn Smyth winner was dealt years ago.
Having Eichel, Dubois, and Staal as your top three centers immediately gives Buffalo one of the best groups of centers in the league. Assuming that Dylan Cozens isn’t included in the trade, they are allowed to insulate him at the RW and let him ease into the lineup at his own pace — without being rushed. The Sabres should be all in on Dubois.
What would it take?
The Columbus Blue Jackets aren’t interested in a rebuild — they are a team that is going to want help on their team in any potential Pierre-Luc Dubois trade. I imagine they would want a player who can make an impact on their roster that is still young, along with a pick and or prospect.
What could Buffalo give up?
I think we all can agree that the Sabres have what it takes to make a Dubois trade work. There are no hurdles such as no trade or no movement clauses in Dubois’ contract that would block any potential trade. The Sabres have a lot of desirable pieces that could move the needle for Columbus. Obviously Adams will not be trading Jack Eichel or Rasmus Dahlin. Currently, Taylor Hall is probably untouchable as well, at least until the trade deadline if the Sabres decide to be sellers. Then you have a group of players where you probably don’t want to trade them, but if a really good player became available, you would probably be willing to trade them. That list includes Sam Reinhart, Victor Olofsson, and probably Henri Jokiharju. I know what you all are thinking, what about Dylan Cozens? He is probably as close to an untouchable as you can get. He looks like he is going to be an incredible player. At first when thinking about what it would take, I thought that he is exactly what Columbus would want in any Dubois trade — and can you blame them?
If you’re the Sabres, you obviously want to hold onto your best prospect who just lit up the IIHF World Junior Championship for Canada. He is looking like he’s going to be an important player for this team going forward, so I certainly give some pause when thinking about including him in any trade package. Unfortunately when you’re talking about acquiring a player like Pierre-Luc Dubois, that’s the kind of player that you hope that Cozens can become, if not better. So that’s a tough scenario, but probably exactly what Columbus would be asking for, if not more. If it is more? That is a hard no from me. And after doing a Twitter poll, it’s clear that most fans would rather hold onto Cozens and bank on his great potential.
I have been an advocate for Sam Reinhart for a long time and have always defended him, but in this case, I would think about including him in a package for Dubois. If this scenario happened, they could always keep Cozens at RW to fill the void that Reinhart left if he was traded. Similarly with Victor Olofsson, I would typically prefer to hold onto him. Like Reinhart though, if they can get Dubois and have to trade Olofsson, I think you do it. Ultimately I’d prefer to keep that goal-scoring threat and try to deal other pieces. If it came down to the two of them, I would include Olofsson in the trade package over Reinhart.
At this point in time, the Sabres need to start looking at dealing their first round picks to improve their team and get into the playoffs. That pick is arguably their highest valued trade chip if they don’t intend on trading Cozens. They don’t have time to wait around anymore — the priority should be to keep Jack Eichel happy and let him know that this team is still going in the right direction. Giving up that pick would make yet another statement to Eichel that they are all in on winning. They went out and signed Taylor Hall and acquired Eric Staal too; trading for Dubois would be just another reason for Eichel to want to stay in town.
In a bizarre, worst-case scenario where Jack Eichel requests a trade in the future if it’s another bad season, with Dubois, the Sabres would at least have a very respectable 1-2 center punch in Dubois and Cozens. It’s not a topic fans like to talk about, but a base that could be covered.
With Dubois carrying an AAV of $5 million and the Sabres being close to the salary cap, Buffalo will need to shed about $4-$5 million in a trade with Columbus. Who has an AAV or roughly that much and has been connected to the Blue Jackets in the past? Yes, Rasmus Ristolainen. Given the elongated trade talk around Ristolainen, on the surface it seems like it would be a no-brainer to include him in this deal. The reality is that the Sabres coaching staff still view him as an important piece to the team, so it may be easier said than done to get Ristolainen in another team’s uniform.
Additionally you also have some expendable prospects/young players who could be tossed in here as well. I’m looking at Casey Mittelstadt and Mattias Samuelsson. Heck, we’re talking about Dubois here, why not include Jack Quinn as a potential trade chip to get this done too?
What about a goalie?
The Sabres neglected to address their goaltending situation during the offseason and after his first start of the season, Carter Hutton didn’t instill much confidence in the fan base that he can be leaned on as a goaltender for this team in a condensed schedule. The Blue Jackets have two goalies who I believe would be upgrades to what the Sabres have in net with either Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo. If the Sabres can’t strike a deal for Dubois, they should absolutely be looking into getting one of these goalies from Columbus. If they can get Dubois and a goalie, even better.
What could a trade look like?
Just for the fun of it, here are a few trade proposals that I came up with…
BUF gets C Pierre-Luc Dubois
CBJ gets C Dylan Cozens
BUF gets C Pierre-Luc Dubois
CBJ gets LW Victor Olofsson, C Casey Mittelstadt, 2022 2nd round pick, and D Mattias Samuelsson
BUF gets C Pierre-Luc Dubois and G Joonas Korpisalo
CBJ gets 2021 1st round pick, D Rasmus Ristolainen, C Casey Mittelstadt, D Mattias Samuelsson, G Carter Hutton and a 2022 2nd round pick
The Sabres have what it takes to get a true top-six center into their lineup and could possibly transform their team into a true playoff contender by acquiring Dubois. I think they should be all in on this. Again, I don’t think this will happen, and I think it’s more likely that Dubois plays out the entire season with the Blue Jackets, but it’s a fun thing to think about.
What do you think? Should the Sabres go all in on adding a top 6 center like Dubois? Join the conversation on Twitter @thechargingbuf and @JoeTCBNHL