Pierre-Luc Dubois has just signed a two-year extension with the Columbus Blue Jackets. The 22-year-old centre is a cornerstone of their roster. Recent rumours have put his future with the franchise in jeopardy. He has elected to sign a bridge deal with Columbus so he can play while they seek a trade. The Boston Bruins must pursue him. Dubois is the answer to one of Boston’s biggest needs. If they can bring him into the fold, he could help this team continue their perennial success.
Boston and Pierre-Luc Dubois: A Match Made in Heaven
Stuck in Neutral with Columbus
Drafted third overall in 2016, Pierre-Luc Dubois is a highly gifted centreman. He is the franchise’s top centre and one of the most prized pieces on a talented roster. Standing at 6’3″, 218 lbs, he has a frame that is capable of playing a physical game. Considering that, it is highly impressive that he has not missed a game in three seasons. Bringing everything he can every night is not easy when you are constantly battling for the puck along the boards.
With 158 points in 234 games, he is a consistent contributor offensively. Dubois has also spent much of his time playing with the likes of Cam Atkinson, Nick Foligno, Oliver Bjorkstrand, and Gustav Nyquist. These are Columbus’ top forwards. Not a single player on this roster is capable of producing at a point per game pace. While Dubois could be that with further development, he needs more help. Columbus is a great team defensively. Their largest issue is their lack of high-end offensive talent. If Dubios was playing with better talent in a system with more offensive upside, his numbers could see a boost.
A Great Fit in Black n’ Gold
Boston cannot expect Patrice Bergeron to play forever. At 35 years old, Bergeron likely only has three more good years left until we begin to see a significant decline in his performance on the ice. Boston’s current candidates to replace him include Jack Studnicka and Johnny Beecher. Both figure to be important parts of the roster of the future. It is also a very real possibility that neither lives up to the title of the top-line centre. Studnicka and Beecher both project to develop into middle-six forwards. The only current centre on the roster who can step into that top-line role after the departures of Bergeron and David Krejci would be Charlie Coyle. Coyle is an excellent middle-six forward but should not be playing with the top line. Unless Studnicka or Beecher surprises everyone and takes a massive leap forward in their development, there is no replacement within the organization for Bergeron as the top centre. If they were to trade for Pierre-Luc Dubois, they could extend their ability to be perennial contenders beyond the next few seasons.
Boston’s reputation as bullies on the ice has softened in recent years. The roster has gotten younger and faster to adapt to the way the game is played. You still need a physical presence on any roster. That has been evident in recent years when Dubois’ Blue Jackets swept the record-setting Tampa Bay Lightning in postseason play two seasons ago. The recent departure of Zdeno Chara leaves a gaping hole that needs filling. Pierre-Luc Dubois can help replace the physical aspect of his game. He has the size and skill to not only be an on-ice bully but Boston’s future top-line centre. He has already filled that role with Columbus and could be equally, if not more, successful with the Bruins.
The unfortunate aspect of this whole scenario is that Boston cannot wait for Pierre-Luc Dubois to just hit free agency and sign him to a contract. He is only 22-years-old. He will not be eligible for unrestricted free agency for four more seasons. If they want to add Dubois to a roster that is ready to compete now, they need to bring him onto the roster as soon as possible. A trade is their only option, as he just signed a two-year extension with the Blue Jackets, and can no longer be signed as a restricted free agent. While the price will be high for the talented youngster, the Bruins have the necessary assets to put together a suitable trade package.
Boston will likely have to give up a current NHL forward in addition to future assets. Likely assets to be given up include David Krejci, Jack Studnicka, Jakub Zboril, and Boston’s first-round draft pick in 2021. While this price may seem hefty, it is undoubtedly worthwhile to bring Pierre-Luc Dubois onto the roster. Krejci serves as an immediate replacement for Dubois. he can easily slot into Columbus’ top line as their first centre for this season. That said, Krejci’s contract expires at the end of the season, leaving them with a major hole. The addition of Studnicka gives the team a player who could be a solid second-line centre in a couple of seasons and is arguably ready for his first NHL season now. The first-round draft choice is the final major component of this deal. Zboril is little more than a throw-in as he is a very low-end defensive prospect who has been labelled as a bust by many.
A Role for Pierre-Luc Dubois
With Krejci out of the picture in this potential trade, Dubois immediately becomes Boston’s second-line centre, with the possibility of moving up in the lineup in a few seasons. This unit can play more physically with Dubois there. His frame gives them that advantage they lacked with Krejci. That gives Boston something they have not had. The last few seasons have seen the top two lines highlighted by a dominant offensive playing style with the bottom two lines playing the grit and grind game. Dubois’ addition gives that second line the talent to put pucks in the net while delivering crushing checks every shift. That sort of combination is rare in today’s NHL and gives the Bruins one of the most formidable offensive groupings in the league.
Looking at the future of this roster, there is little hope for optimism. There are no elite prospects in the pipeline. The stars that have carried this team to success over the last decade are nearing the end of their careers. If they want to prepare this team for the future, it starts with a trade for Dubois. While it may seem like one player cannot change the entire outlook of a roster, this deal would certainly give them a chance to continue their prolonged success. General Manager Don Sweeney has made several trades over the last few seasons as means of fighting for a Stanley Cup. This is a move he can make to keep them in the conversation for years to come.