Throughout the entire offseason the Columbus Blue Jackets have remained confident that they were going to get restricted free agent center Pierre-Luc Dubois signed before the start of training camp.
On Thursday they made that a reality.
The team announced that Dubois has been re-signed to a two-year contract that will pay him a total of $10 million. That comes out to a salary cap hit of $5 million per season. Dubois will still be a restricted free agent at the conclusion of this contract making it a classic bridge deal. He will make $3.35 million in salary this season, and then $6.65 million next season.
This was always going to be a delicate contract negotiation for the Blue Jackets. Dubois is their best forward, a key part of their future, and they have had a tough history when it comes to restricted free agent negotiations. They have a tendency to drag them out until just before the season starts, and it has at times resulted in an eventual trade (as it did in the cases of Ryan Johansen and Josh Anderson). Just a few hours before Dubois’ signing there was a report from Pierre LeBrun that Dubois was not yet in Columbus and that some teams had speculated he might want a change of scenery.
Obviously things can change quickly in contract talks. Very similar to what we saw with Brendan Gallagher in Montreal back in October.
So now the Blue Jackets have their most important offseason task completed and can get ready for the start of the 2020-21 NHL season without any other roster issues.
Dubois is coming off an 18-goal, 49-point regular season in 70 games. He followed that with a very strong playoff performance where he scored four goals and 10 total points in 10 games. The 22-year-old center has never missed a game in his NHL career and has already shown that he is one of the best young, two-way centers in the league.
In the short-term, that $5 million salary cap number is going to be a steal for the Blue Jackets. If he maintains his current career trajectory, though, his next contract is going to be significant. It also means that over the next two years the Blue Jackets are going to have some major contract work on their hands. The only players on the roster signed beyond the 2021-22 season are Cam Atkinson, Gustav Nyquist, and Vladislav Garikov. That means every other player on the roster is either going to be a restricted or unrestricted free agent after this season or next season.