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4 Thoughts on the Dubois-Laine Blockbuster

On Saturday, the Winnipeg Jets traded Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Pierre-Luc Dubois and a 2022 3rd-round draft pick. All three players in this deal had requested trades, making it no surprise they were dealt.

Here are my four big takeaways from this deal.

1. Winnipeg got better and is loaded at center.

The Jets haven’t had an issue scoring goals, in part because Laine is an excellent shooter. However, they have plenty of scoring depth throughout their lineup. Winnipeg has been desperately searching for a second-line center for the past three seasons. At each of the last three trade deadlines, they have traded for a center. In 2018, it was Paul Stastny, in 2019 they added Kevin Hayes, and last year the Jets acquired Cody Eakin. A team with stability down the middle doesn’t make that same move three seasons in a row.

After bringing in Stastny via trade for the second time in 4 seasons, the Jets were still looking for the long-term answer. When Dubois’ trade request was reported, Winnipeg made a lot of sense, given they had two players of their own looking to be traded. Dubois, at only 22, comes in with the expectation of being the solution to the Jets ongoing problem. Pairing him with Mark Scheifele, the Jets’ top center, and one of the most underrated players in the league, gives Winnipeg a duo of pivots that they can feel comfortable matching up with any opponent in the league.

2. Columbus addressed a glaring need, but at a major price.

It’s no secret that Columbus lacked goal-scoring on its roster. The team has become one that wins games by outworking the opponent, scoring timely goals, and relying on its goaltending. Bringing in a player of Laine’s talent will certainly help them score more goals. The 2016 2nd overall pick has never scored less than 28 goals in a season in his career, and looks to have what it takes to consistently score 40 moving forward.

Addressing their lack of scoring is great, except when it creates a new hole at center. The Blue Jackets no longer have a number one, or even a sure-fire number two center, on their roster. They had to make this deal, and I am not saying this was a bad deal. I am simply acknowledging they now have a massive need down the middle. I am bullish on the importance of the center position in the NHL, so, while I like this deal for the Jackets, I am curious to see how they address this new need moving forward.

3. Roslovic may be the key to this deal for the Jackets.

I just discussed Columbus’ need of not only a top center, but also one for the second-line. Could Roslovic, a young player who spent most of his time with the Jets on the wing of their third line, be part of the answer? Roslovic has played center before, but it wasn’t something Winnipeg either wanted or needed from him. It seems possible that the combination of being stuck in a third-line role and being kept on the wing could have contributed to Roslovic’s desire to leave Winnipeg.

Columbus looks to be willing to give him a shot at center, and doing so could make this trade a big success for the Blue Jackets. If Roslovic, a former 25th overall pick, can become a second-line center, which I think is probably his ceiling, that is half of Columbus’ problem solved already. Finding top centers in this league is not easy, so Columbus would love for Roslovic to fill one of the two holes in their lineup. If he can’t, and has to return to the wing, the Blue Jackets are further away from contending than they would like.

4. This is a rare deal, where teams trading distressed assets get good value in return.

One of the hardest things to do as a GM is to get good value in return for a distressed asset, such as a player that everyone knows has requested a trade. The GM looking to trade a player who wants out usually loses leverage, because other teams know the player wants to leave. In this case, both teams were looking to move distressed assets, since all three players in the deal were unhappy with their respective organizations. The fact that both sides had the same circumstances allowed both teams to get a fair return in the deal.

Usually, when dealing with a trade request, the goal of the GM is to get the best deal he can, hoping to minimize losses. Also, the deal is often built around future assets (picks and prospects) in return for the disgruntled player. This was a perfect storm of events for both teams, because they each filled a need on the other’s roster by trading away players they wanted to move. Both teams are looking to win now, so a deal with young, talented players, who will have an immediate impact, going each way is about as good of a deal you can ask for in these circumstances.

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