NHL Trade Analysis: Pierre-Luc Dubois and Patrik Laine Trade Places
Though there was a lot of Pierre-Luc Dubois trade talk before the season started, things have quieted down a bit after the season started.
© John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports — NHL Trade Analysis of Columbus-Winnipeg deal.

There is nothing like a little NHL Trade Analysis on a Saturday as Pierre-Luc Dubois and Patrik Laine switched places late this morning. The deal looks a little something like this.

Now, let’s add a bit more information to this. The draft pick is a third-round 2022 draft pick and not a 2021. Also, Jack Roslovic signs a two-year deal in Columbus. Winnipeg agrees to retain 26% of Laine’s salary for this season. That evens out the salary between Laine and Dubois.

It was not a secret that both Laine and Dubois wanted out of their respective locations. This made a deal between Kevin Cheveldayoff and Jarmo Kekalainen almost inevitable. Was it an optimal trade? Of course not. Under the circumstances, it is an intriguing transaction with several key variables.

NHL Trade Analysis: What Pierre-Luc Dubois means to Winnipeg?

Winnipeg adds a top-six and arguably top-line center to go along with Mark Scheifele. Also, the salaries offset so this is not costing Winnipeg cap space and Dubois is signed until 2022. He will be a restricted free agent again but there is time. The now Winnipeg center slipped a bit production wise from last season. His shooting percentage dipped to 11.4%. Goals went down to 18 in 70 games (one in every four contests).

Dubois had that 61 point campaign two years ago but that was in the last year of Artemi Panarin‘s contract. Without Panarin, he was not quite the same and that is understandable. Can he bounce back to that level?

One concern is his lack of ability to win face-offs. His career average is just over 44% when taking the five games from this year out of the equation. That should be a major teaching point in Vegas with a center like Scheifele.

Another slight red flag may be intensity. This will draw some ire but were there times last season where Dubois’s level of play dipped? It did seem like it and it was more than his hits noticeably dipping. Body language dropped at times was telling too. However, in the playoffs, the center fired back with ten points in ten games generated nearly three shots a night, and had two hits a contest. More importantly, he carried Columbus into the second round. That flag was debunked emphatically.

Which Dubois will Winnipeg and their fans see? I guess that is the question. The new Winnipeg center can produce consistently enough and will play in an improved offensive situation. That expects to boost his overall point potential. There should be more consistency than inconsistency. Winnipeg fans will be happy with that.

Winnipeg still has a dearth of depth defensively but that is for another time.

What Jack Roslovic and Patrik Laine mean to Columbus?

This is where the plot twists in the NHL trade analysis start to mushroom. Columbus acquired the soon to be 24 year old Roslovic and signed him to a two-year extension. There are plenty of questions as to how Paul Maurice utilized him in Winnipeg. On the other hand, Roslovic now has to show John Tortorella he can play a two-way game to match his second line ceiling. Can he do that? So far, that is not immediately known.

Roslovic has that potential of being a 25+ goal scorer but also being even more of a bust. The only way to know now may be to give him the playing time he sought with Winnipeg. Columbus needs scoring in the worst way. Roslovic did average almost 15 minutes of ice time in 2019-20 and had 29 points (15 goals) in 71 games. He may see more power play time in Columbus which helps both parties.

Now, the real wildcard is Patrik Laine. Both Laine and Jarmo Kekalainen are from Tampere, Finland. Hopefully the Columbus general manager knows something we do not. Laine is still just 22 and becomes a restricted free agent at the end of this season.

Laine is streaky and there is no question about it. However, he can score 30+ goals with ease. The winger enjoyed his highest point per game output last year (0.93) in just 68 games. Also, he played a career high 19:25 a night which was two minutes more than any previous season.

One funny quirk is that Laine’s offensive zone deployment was right around 60% and that is a fraction less than Dubois’ (61.9% last year). Most are surprised by that. Dubois has much better possession rates (+4% career team relative). Laine is around -1.8% in that same metric. That is not a surprise given Laine is more one dimensional.

That being said, Columbus needed a sniper. Dubois was not quite it and Cam Atkinson has vanished with barely a trace. Kekalainen rolling the bones here on two forwards that needed a change of scenery was a good move. It leaves a void down the middle that Columbus hopes to fill internally or with a transaction down the road.

NHL Trade Analysis:  SO, who wins?

This is always the question, isn’t it? Here is the simple problem. There are so many variables with not readily known solutions. For one, will John Tortorella last the season in Columbus? Will any of these players request a trade again before their contracts end? How does Pierre-Luc Dubois handle being the 2C and playing with Nik Ehlers? How do Patrik Laine and Oliver Bjorkstrand play together among others?

Like mentioned, there are just so many questions. Winnipeg acquired the most complete player of the three but at what cost? The hope for the Jets is that Dubois provides more of a two-way game that helps keep offense steady while aiding the beleaguered defense. The hope for Columbus is that Roslovic and Laine provide a goal scoring boost while being able to play a modicum of defense.

The answer is the season has to play out. Columbus has to hope Alexandre Texier continues to develop. If he can complement a Laine, the Blue Jackets may be just fine. By the way, Laine co-existed with Kyle Connor just fine. Both are high-volume shooters. It all comes back to the Tortorella question.

This trade will be fun to study as the season goes onward and beyond. Talk about quite a case to look at it. Both teams benefit in different ways is the way to look at this deal.