It was the Blue Jackets' No. 1 item of offseason business.
Sign your No. 1 center.
It took a while, but that item is now crossed off the to-do list, completing a year-long odyssey for GM Jarmo Kekalainen as he tried to lock up one of his team's most critical pieces. The Blue Jackets have signed budding star Pierre-Luc Dubois to a two-year, $10M contract on New Year's Eve.
The 22-year old center took a step forward in his development in 2019-20, culminating in a playoff performance in which he starred against the Toronto Maple Leafs (including a qualifying-round series hat trick) and showed well against the eventual Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
Dubois is seen as the club's top-line center for the foreseeable future. With the acquisition of Max Domi, Dubois will have a high-end complimentary center for the first time since Matt Duchene was acquired for the 2018-19 playoff push.
The stage is set for Dubois to become a star in the NHL, only a few months after the hockey world saw what he's capable of in the Return to Play/playoff tournament in Toronto. For those just getting an introduction, they saw Dubois as a bull-headed, north-south power forward who can control play in the middle of the ice.
The Athletic's Dom Luszczyszyn said this about Dubois in his 2020-21 Blue Jackets season preview:
Before the bubble I ran a series looking at The Next Ones based on young player’s best comparables. Dubois’ was Aleksander Barkov, and that was on full display during a dominant playoff run where he led the team in points (10 points in 10 games), and driving play (53 percent expected goals rate), while outscoring opponents 9-4. He was a beast.
Dubois isn’t particularly dominant at any one thing (though he’s definitely elite at carrying the puck in), there are just very few weaknesses in his game.
"Pierre-Luc is a talented, young player with great potential, and we look forward to his continued growth and development, and the valuable contributions he will bring to our team," said Kekalainen via a team statement. "I'd like to thank my staff, as well as Pat Brisson and his group, for their professionalism and efforts to finalize this agreement prior to the start of training camp to ensure that the focus moving forward is on our team and achieving its goals for the upcoming season."