Why LA Kings need to avoid trading for Pierre-Luc Dubois

LA Kings (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)
LA Kings (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images) /

Columbus Blue Jackets star center Pierre-Luc Dubois was benched during Thursday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning by coach John Tortorella for what could be generously called a lack of effort. It’s no secret Dubois would like to play somewhere else, but how did it get to this point? Should the LA Kings get involved in trade talks?

The Blue Jackets drafted Dubois number three overall in the 2016 draft. This surprised many in the hockey world, but Columbus General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen‘s faith was rewarded as Dubois quickly established himself as the team’s top-line center. 2017-18 was his rookie season, and he scored 48 points, which included 20 goals. The following season was even better, as he posted 27 goals and 34 assists, and he was on a similar scoring trajectory last season when it ended prematurely.

Pierre-Luc Dubois has also had playoff success in his young NHL career. He had three points in game four of the sweep of the heavily favored Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2018-19 playoffs. In the two rounds the Blue Jackets played in last season’s playoffs, Dubois had a total of ten points. It seemed like he was a path to superstardom.

Even though he signed a two-year contract this offseason worth $10 million, Dubois now appears to be headed out of town. The young center was apparently unhappy in the Ohio capital, and when he signed the contract, it was supposedly with the understanding the Blue Jackets would try to trade him if things did not get better. The reason for the unhappiness is simple: Pierre-Luc Dubois does not get along with Columbus Blue Jackets Head Coach John Tortorella.

The Blue Jackets hired Tortorella in October of 2015. He is known for being tough on his players, and although they don’t always like him, he does get results – does this sound familiar, Kings fans? True to form, “Torts” (as Tortorella is known as) was tough on Dubois, and it has caused what looks to be a rift that cannot be healed.

The blame should not fall completely on Tortorella in this situation. Everyone knows he does not “sugar coat” anything. It’s true that he publicly said he “needed more” out of Dubois after the first round of last season’s playoffs, but this served as motivation as Dubois had a much better second round. It was also Coach Tortorella who confirmed Dubois wanted to be traded.

Some would say that should have “stayed in the room,” but should it really? In this day and age, with massive amounts of information available instantaneously, nothing stays under wraps for very long. All Tortorella did was get it out in the open so that it wasn’t hanging over the team. For Dubois’s part, if he was that unhappy, why sign the new contract in the first place?

This leads us back to Thursday night against the Lightning. The benching of Dubois has been discussed extensively since in the hockey world, and most agree with Tortorella’s decision. In the process, it also sent the Dubois trade rumors into overdrive. Teams that need help down the middle, like the Rangers, Wild, and Ducks, have been in pursuit for weeks, and recent reports have surfaced the LA Kings have joined the fray. According to Jim “Boomer” Gordon of SiriusXM NHL Radio’s The Point, the Kings would be the perfect trade partner for the Jackets as they have the prospects and cap space to make it happen – but should they?

Should the LA Kings get involved? In a word – NO

The LA Kings should stay as far away from this deal as possible. On the surface, it seems like a great idea. Pierre-Luc Dubois is only 22 years old and is already a proven NHL player. He is on an affordable albeit short term contract, and he desperately wants a change of scenery. What’s not to like?

To start with, the price. Even with Dubois basically forcing a trade, the Blue Jackets still hold all the cards, as he is under contract for this season and next. At this point, Columbus management would like to get him out of there, but with the leverage they have, the Blue Jackets will not take pennies on the dollar just to make a deal happen – not to mention the number of teams competing for Dubois.

If they have to, the Jackets can make Dubois a healthy scratch until their price is met. For the Kings, it would look something like this: one of Quinton Byfield, Alex Turcotte, or Gabe Vilardi, a first-round pick (if Byfield is not included), and another pick or prospect.

With the center depth in the LA Kings organization, is that price tag worth it for what will be a second-line center? Dubois was the first-line center in Columbus, but Anze Kopitar is entrenched in that spot in LA, and he has four years left on his contract at $10 million per season – he isn’t going anywhere soon.

Next. Kings identified as potential suitor for Pierre-Luc Dubois. dark

Current LA second-line center Gabe Vilardi is showing promise as a top-six forward. With Turcotte and Byfield on the way (along with several other high-end forward prospects), the LA Kings simply don’t need Pierre-Luc Dubois – especially at that price.