Put yourself in the shoes of an NHL head coach. Your team has a 1-2-1 record after the first four games. It’s been common knowledge that your starting center, a 22-year-old playmaker, wants out. You’re competing against the reigning Stanley Cup champions in a close game after benching your star center, losing in overtime. This is the reality of the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the Seattle Kraken should be salivating.
Last night, John Tortorella benched Pierre Luc-DuBois after 3:55 of ice time. His star center didn’t play four minutes after averaging about seventeen minutes through the last four games. It’s a relationship that has fractured. Many teams will be interested in Luc-DuBois talent, but at what cost? Tortorella is the kind of coach who will dismiss players, no matter the talent, who don’t compete for him.
Previously, Tortorella made waves after trading a star player. Back when he was the head coach of the Vancouver Canucks, he chose to start goaltender Eddie Lack in the 2014 Heritage Classic instead of Roberto Luongo. Of course, Luongo became openly disappointed. Two days later, Tortorella traded Luongo. There are similarities between Luongo and the current case with Luc-DuBois.
A key difference is that, according to Tortorella, Luc-DuBois “hasn’t given a reason” for a trade request. Before, Luongo had a tangible reason for being irritated with Tortorella. If we are to pick up what Tortorella is putting down, this has all come out of thin-air regarding Luc-DuBois. That just isn’t accurate.
Clearly, Luc-DuBois has an open disdain for Tortorella. In the NHL, styles do clash. That means egos and personalities simply do not go hand-in-hand. Tortorella mentioned Luc-DuBois’ benching had to do with his erosion of play since the season began. To a degree, Tortorella is telling the truth.
As this storyline grows legs, the Blue Jackets lose trade leverage for Luc-DuBois. Many teams (Ducks, Wild, Canadiens, Jets, Flames, Senators, Rangers, Sabres, Flyers, Red Wings, Capitals, and Coyotes) are lining up with potential packages to acquire him. Where trade value diminishes is the return Columbus receives. Teams will be there, wanting to poach Luc-DuBois. If they are doing this correctly, at the moment, no one should be packaging a blockbuster deal.
Remember that mention of the Luongo trade? The Canucks sent Luongo and Steven Anthony to the Florida Panthers for Jacob Markstrom and Shawn Matthias. In a pinch, Tortorella sent away an elite goaltender, and his cap hit for a middling forward and a goaltender that worked well in a rotation formula. The same kind of return could exist for Luc-DuBois, but Tortorella hasn’t committed to dressing the star forward for tomorrow night. At least before trading Luongo, he was named the starting goaltender before being traded a couple of hours later.
Good For The Seattle Kraken
If the Blue Jackets are unable to move Luc-DuBois, they clearly will not protect him for the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft. That means the Kraken could acquire him in one of two ways.
First, the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft route. Again, this would mean that no other team wants to trade for Luc-DuBois by the 2020-2021 season’s trade deadline. It’s unlikely, but what if? Columbus would be foolish to protect a player who doesn’t want to be there at a $5mil price tag. Conventionally, Seattle could easily afford a player of his youth and talent.
The other route is via trade. The Kraken could offer a package of draft picks prior to the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft in a handshake agreement of sorts. Seattle has a window of time before the expansion where they can make these sorts of agreements with other franchises, and it’s not considered tampering. A universe exists where, if the price is right, Luc-DuBois is one of the first players to belong to the Kraken. For that, Seattle is collectively eating their popcorn as the circus continues.