Training camp for the Blue Jackets is just a few days away, but Pierre-Luc Dubois isn’t in Columbus. Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic reports today that Dubois has left the area and remains unsigned, also noting that there are “rumblings” the star forward could be looking for a change of scenery. Still, even LeBrun notes that those rumblings could be “wishful thinking” from other teams.
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What comes next in the saga surrounding Columbus Blue Jackets center Pierre-Luc Dubois?
Aaron Portzline of The Athletic tweets that for weeks and as recently as Wednesday, the team and Dubois’ representatives had been optimistic a deal would be done for camp. Dubois had even been skating in Columbus preparing for the season but has now left (Portzline reports he has not gone back to Canada). Of course, leaving Columbus does not necessarily mean he will not be signing a contract or that he will miss training camp, but it certainly doesn’t seem like a positive indicator that he’ll be there when things open next week either.
Dubois, 22, registered just 49 points in 70 games last season but showed exactly the kind of game-changing force he could be in the playoffs for the Blue Jackets. With 10 points in 10 postseason games, he easily led the club, often appearing as the most dangerous player on the ice. That was true even when skating against some of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ high-priced talent, who received huge pay raises when they hit restricted free agency. That’s exactly the situation Dubois is in and though he may not have quite the same history — plus is negotiating in a unique, financially depressed year — he is likely still looking for a huge contract given his performance so far.
It’s not to say that the Blue Jackets won’t pay that, but remember they have had standoffs with successful young RFAs in the past. In 2017, Josh Anderson missed training camp before signing a three-year deal with the Blue Jackets in early October. When he was set to reach the market again this offseason, the Blue Jackets traded him to the Montreal Canadiens, where he promptly scored a seven-year deal.
The Blue Jackets do have plenty of cap space if they eventually get a contract done with Dubois. The team currently sits about $9M under the $81.5M ceiling, with Gustav Nyquist expected to miss most of, if not all of the upcoming season after shoulder surgery. Brandon Dubinsky is also not expected to play again thanks to a chronic wrist problem, meaning if the team ever needed long-term injured reserve flexibility, they could have plenty.
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