The Pierre-Luc Dubois saga in Columbus took a another turn on Wednesday, as always-candid head coach John Tortorella appeared in an interview on 97.1 The Fan and did not hold back in his commentary on the situation surrounding his young forward. While he has not officially requested a trade from the Blue Jackets, contract negotiations with Dubois did not go well, and the team has been led to believe that he would prefer a change of scenery. Tortorella took a more direct approach, outright confirming that this is the case:
"Yeah, he wants out. He spoke to the team, as we do here. It’s a little bit different than (departed 2019 free agents Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky) were. This is a 22-year-old kid. It doesn’t happen that often, so he has been honest with the group."
Yet, Tortorella is not content with the explanations (or lack thereof) that Dubois has provided he and others. He remains unclear as to what has changed in the talented center, who looked like a budding superstar and long-term cornerstone in Columbus just months ago in the postseason. And if the coach himself is to blame, it doesn’t seem like Tortorella is willing to let that change his style or affect his locker room:
"I wish he was a little bit more honest as far as reasons why. I still haven’t really gotten to that, but I think he needs to speak on that… I think that (conflict) is a really good thing in developing a hockey player. Now ’Luc’ may not think that. Sometimes these players, especially today’s athletes, think, ’You’re too hard on me, you’re picking on me’ and this and that. Maybe it’s too hard for him. I don’t know. I haven’t been given a reason why he wants to leave. He certainly hasn’t said it to me that ’I don’t want to play for you.’ I think if that’s the reason he should tell me, and he should really basically get in front of it and get up out of here. That’s just the way I think you should do business in this stuff here. There’s no sense of people trying to figure out what’s going on. Let’s get in front of it here and get about our business and try to be the best team we can be… It’s a short leash with me as far as this is concerned. He needs to continue to do the things to help this team win and be the best teammate he can be, or I’m not sure where it goes. It’s a situation and we’ll go to it day by day."
Tortorella’s public and honest take on Dubois is not going to make the situation any better, even if the coach is not to blame for the trade request. Initial reports stated that the Blue Jackets would take their time to deal Dubois, waiting to maximize the return as best they can while he hopefully continues to contribute on the ice. However, if the locker room becomes too toxic with a top player at odds with the head coach and openly opposed to any future with the organization, this situation might need a resolution sooner rather than later. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that suitors are already serious about adding Dubois, so if the Blue Jackets need to make a quick trade, they will still have plenty of offers to choose from.
Here are some more trade rumors from around the league...