Rangers should forget the polarizing Dubois after Blue Jackets travesty

I’ll be honest. I never came out pro or con regarding Pierre-Luc Dubois. At age 22, he is a skilled two-way pivot with size and speed. I admire those qualities including his grit which is more of a North American style many teams covet. If only it were that simple.

A former third overall pick in the ’16 NHL Draft, the kid from Quebec is acting like an entitled, spoiled brat. With only three NHL seasons worth of experience, Dubois has already publicly stated his desire to leave Columbus for a bigger market. So much for loyalty to the team that believed in him enough to grab the fourth-year forward third in a Draft Class that featured Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine going 1-2. Matthew Tkachuk went sixth and Clayton Keller seventh. That’s quite a list to be part of.

While it’s true a couple have been signed long-term while Laine is on a one-year deal earning more money with each goal scored, that doesn’t excuse Dubois for his laziness in a Blue Jackets’ 3-2 overtime loss to the Lightning. On only his fifth shift of the game in the first period, he dogged it so badly that no-nonsense coach John Tortorella had seen enough. He justifiably glued his top center to the bench. The footage speaks for itself.

If that’s all Dubois is willing to give, he becomes as unlikable as one of those NBA superstars we hate so much. I don’t have to name names. The last thing hockey fans want is for the sport to become as utterly predictable as basketball. So, if you’re on the Go Get Dubois side, you can stop reading right now. After seeing that travesty, I don’t want any part of Dubois in NYC. As good a player as he is, that isn’t what we want to see from any Rangers. It lacks character and class. It’s also completely disrespectful to his teammates, who worked their butts off to earn a point against the defending champs.

It isn’t like Dubois is getting paid peanuts. He makes $5 million on average through 2022. The Blue Jackets didn’t have to pay him. But despite the public demand from a young player who hasn’t been around that long, they settled on two years for their best forward. If he really cares, he should play hard the way he indicated prior to the start of the season. Instead, he’s already become a distraction five games in. That doesn’t look good, or help his value.

One of the rumored teams interested are the hometown Canadiens. Naturally, they’d love to have a player of his talent. Even if he won’t be the biggest point producer, he’s the kind of guy who can step up his game when it matters. His 19 points in 26 career postseason games prove that. Last summer, he still was a point-per-game (4-6-10 in 10 GP) minus former superstar Artemi Panarin and Matt Duchene.

Here’s the thing Rangers fans must consider. He costs $5 million against the cap. It was reported that Columbus asked for Habs center Nick Suzuki, another young roster player plus more. They wisely turned it down. The word insane comes to mind. Suzuki will be a better scorer than Dubois. He already is good. It’s not worth it if that’s the asking price. In all likelihood, the Canadiens should be a playoff team despite playing in a challenging all Canadian North Division.

What would the Rangers equivalent be to acquire such a polarizing player? Don’t insert Ryan Strome and think that’s going to work. Dubois BTW has one more goal/point (1) than the struggling Strome, who’s pressing. They would probably start with Kaapo Kakko or Vitaly Kravtsov, K’Andre Miller, a first round draft pick and probably someone else due to the young Blueshirts being unproven. Say, maybe Pavel Buchnevich? I think the Rangers would reject that on principle. Want to pawn off Tony DeAngelo? What will the defense look like afterwards? It already is sub-par due to Coach Quinn’s reluctance to sit Jack Johnson. Nobody knows why he’s in for Friday’s game at Pittsburgh. Good luck to DeAngelo, who returns following a two game absence.

The truth is this. Let’s say for arguments sake they are in on Dubois. The Blue Jackets aren’t taking back an unsigned Nils Lundkvist, who isn’t even playing in North America. Forget it. They want NHL players with at least one established along with another asset. You aren’t getting a 50-60 point player for a favorable package. Here’s a suggestion. How about waiting and seeing what this roster is capable of. They’re only entering Game 4 tonight and Game 5 this weekend. Try having patience.

A final point on the Dubois debacle in Columbus Thursday night. I watched Tortorella’s postgame. He calmly answered reporters for nine minutes via Zoom Conference. He was very diplomatic and pointed out how he’s handled Dubois or for that matter, any other player. Tortorella demands respect and wants his team to be hard to play against. Whatever that was where Dubois gave up so easily against the smaller Tyler Johnson, was a disinterested player going through the motions. It was brutal. He earned a seat on the bench. Who knows? If Quinn can sit DeAngelo, then Torts can healthy scratch Dubois.

Don’t forget that at $5 million AAV, Dubois is only locked in for two seasons. What do you think he’ll command by the summer of 2022? Exactly. The Rangers have a better top line center in Mika Zibanejad, who will deserve a nice raise this off-season. Extending him is important. That way he’s not playing out the final year of his contract. Buchnevich also needs to get paid this summer. Especially if he keeps producing. He’s stepped it up.

Don’t forget the salary cap is likely staying put at $81.5 million. So, that makes it harder to make such big moves. Like it or not, the Rangers remain a young rebuilding team searching for an identity. They play in a brutal division that’s been upgraded with the addition of the Bruins. A proven winner that’s tough to play against. The Sabres are more on the Rangers level, but boast a top 10 superstar in Jack Eichel along with scoring forwards Taylor Hall, Victor Olofsson and Jeff Skinner, who figures to get moved up eventually.

With two unproven goalies, rookies Alexis Lafreniere and K’Andre Miller along with Filip Chytil, Kakko and key second-year tandem Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren, the Rangers realistically speaking aren’t a playoff team. Unless a team ahead of them falls like the sketchy Penguins or low scoring Bruins, the Blueshirts will have an uphill battle to finish in the top four.

Is it worth sacrificing the future for a guy who might not be around in two years? I would pass.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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