Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

Laine, Blue Jackets create a lot of questions together

Liam McHugh, Keith Jones and Mike Babcock break down the latest NHL power rankings, discussing whether the Montreal Canadiens deserve the top spot and which team's placement surprises them most.

At first glance you might think the Columbus Blue Jackets solved a big problem with Saturday’s Pierre-Luc Dubois for Patrik Laine blockbuster.

They dealt a disgruntled player, acquired an elite goal scorer, and even managed to get another center (Jack Roslovic) to fill the spot vacated by Dubois. But it may have just planted the seeds for another major headache over the coming year, because they could soon find themselves in a very similar situation.

Until about a month ago, Dubois and the Blue Jackets looked like a success story in the making. They raised eyebrows when they took him with the No. 3 overall pick in 2016 (when everyone assumed it was going to be Jesse Puljujarvi), were vindicated when Dubois started to develop into a top-line center, and looked to have an organizational building block in place at a premium position. Especially after his playoff performance in the bubble.

But then the story started to turn into a movie that Blue Jackets fans have no doubt seen before. A rocky contract negotiation, a star player wants a change, and then the star player gets the change. And that brings us back around to the trade and what could be ahead for the Blue Jackets and Laine.

From a hockey standpoint, the addition of a player like Laine is something that should make fans ecstatic. Players like him do not get traded very often and the opportunity to acquire one is a very, very rare event. He is still only 22 years old! In a *bad* year he still scores 30 goals! In a good year he could score 40 or 50! He can be a game-changer on the power play. When do you ever get a chance to acquire that kind of player? Typically, you do not!

Still, there are some concerns, and let’s start with the biggest elephant in the room: The contract.

Laine is in the final year of his current deal and will put the Blue Jackets right back into another situation where they have to deal with a restricted free agent negotiation. The Blue Jackets have a history of making these situations very complicated. And the results are not always positive. They drag them out, they play hardball, they take it right to the start of training camp.

It happened with Dubois, it happened with Ryan Johansen, it happened with Josh Anderson, and it happened with Zach Werenski.

Three of those four were traded very quickly. Werenski is the only one that remains, while his contract expires after next season.

A Laine contract is probably not going to be simple, and it is not one that you want to mess up. Because, again, when do you get the opportunity to acquire an in-his-prime goal scorer with this much potential?

Which thing brings us the question of whether or not Laine sees himself in Columbus long-term. It is no secret that retaining high-level talent has been an issue for the Blue Jackets over the years. Which is bizarre, because Columbus is a great city and the team has consistently been in the playoffs recently. But you can not ignore the names that have come and gone through the city.

It is going to be fascinating to see how Laine and coach John Tortorella handle each other. From a distance, you can see how there might be the potential for a combustable relationship. Obviously that is all just speculation until they work together, but it’s not hard to see the potential issues with personality and style.

The next year or two is going to be fascinating in Columbus to see how all of this plays out because a significant portion of the roster has expiring contracts and without Dubois they have a huge hole at center. Laine and Alexandre Texier are restricted free agents. Tortorella’s contract expires. Captain Nick Foligno is unrestricted after this season. Seth Jones, Werenski, Boone Jenner, Max Domi, Dean Kukan, Roslovic, Liam Foudy, and both goalies (Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo) all have their contracts expire after next season, with most of that group being potential UFAs. It is a lot of work to do in a short period of time, and Laine is going to suddenly become the biggest priority.

MORE: Your 2020-21 NHL on NBC TV Schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.