Pierre-Luc Dubois wants to leave the Columbus Blue Jackets, coach John Tortorella said Wednesday.
“Yeah, he wants out,” Tortorella told “Rothman and Ice” on 97.1 The Fan in Columbus. “He spoke to the team, as we do here. It’s a little bit different than [Artemi Panarin] and [Sergei Bobrovsky] were. This is a 22-year-old kid. It doesn’t happen that often, so he has been honest with the group. I wish he was a little bit more honest as far as reasons why. I still haven’t really gotten to that, but I think he needs to speak on that. I won’t.”
The Blue Jackets open their season at the Nashville Predators on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; FS-TN, FS-O, NHL.TV).
Dubois, a center who was a restricted free agent, signed a two-year, $10 million contract (average annual value $5 million) with Columbus on Dec. 31. The Athletic reported Dubois “may be looking for a change of scenery,” but he did not confirm that when he reported to training camp.
“[Dubois] has had a good camp, but it’s a short leash with me as far as this is concerned,” Tortorella said. “He needs to continue to do the things to help this team win and be the best teammate he can be, or I’m not sure where it goes. It’s a situation, and we’ll go to it day by day.”
When the Blue Jackets opened training camp Jan. 3, Tortorella said Columbus would handle Dubois the same way it did when Panarin and Bobrovsky were in the final season of their respective contracts in 2018-19. Panarin signed a seven-year contract with the New York Rangers, and Bobrovsky signed a seven-year contract with the Florida Panthers, each on July 1, 2019.
General manager Jarmo Kekalainen has not said whether the Blue Jackets would trade Dubois, who led Columbus with 49 points (18 goals, 31 assists) in 70 games last season. When Tortorella was asked about the coach-player relationship, he said he didn’t know how Dubois felt while acknowledging he has had some conflict with the No. 3 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft since he made his NHL debut in the 2017-18 season.
“I look at conflict differently … everybody gets all excited about arguments and this and that, what happened on the bench,” Tortorella said. “I think it’s so healthy because then I think you have the two individuals in the middle of that being honest with one another. And I think that that’s a really good thing in developing a hockey player.
“Now ‘Luc’ may not think that. Sometimes these players, especially today’s athletes, think, ‘You’re too hard on me, you’re picking on me,’ and this and that. Maybe it’s too hard for him. I don’t know. I haven’t been given a reason why he wants to leave. He certainly hasn’t said it to me that ‘I don’t want to play for you.’
“I think if that’s the reason he should tell me, and he should really basically get in front of it and get up out of here. That’s just the way I think you should do business in this stuff here. There’s no sense of people trying to figure out what’s going on. Let’s get in front of it here and get about our business and try to be the best team we can be.”
Dubois led the Blue Jackets with 10 points (four goals, six assists) in 10 Stanley Cup Playoff games last season, which ended with a five-game loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference First Round. He has scored 158 points (65 goals, 93 assists) in 234 regular-season games and 19 points (eight goals, 11 assists) in 26 playoff games.
“It’s very difficult to me when a guy doesn’t want to be here at such a young age and the amount of time we’ve poured into him to try to develop him and is just looking to go,” Tortorella said. “It’s hard for me. I’m not sure where it goes with me as the season gets going, I’ll be quite honest with you, because I want to spend my time developing the people that want to be here, but I still have to coach the hockey team to be the best it can be.”