WINNIPEG — Nikolaj Ehlers hates to see Patrik Laine go but is excited at what Pierre-Luc Dubois could bring to the Winnipeg Jets.
The Columbus Blue Jackets granted Dubois' request for a trade Saturday, sending him and a 2022 third-round pick to Winnipeg for forwards Laine and Jack Roslovic. The Jets will also retain 26 per cent of Laine's reported $7.5-million salary.
Dubois, 22, had a goal in five games this season after leading Columbus last year in points (49) and assists (31). The 22-year-old native of Ste-Agathe-des-Monts, Que., had asked to be traded earlier this year.
The departure of Laine is difficult for Ehlers as the two had become good friends. But Ehlers said the move is the harsh reality of pro sports.
"This is obviously the tough side of the business," Ehlers told reporters. "We've been brothers since Day 1 so, yeah, this is not very fun but like I said before it's part of the business.
"Everyone knows he (Dubois) is a great player. He's a big guy and he can skate, make plays and he's a very smart player. It's going to be fun to have him on the team and we're excited for him to get here."
Dubois had a solid 2018-19 campaign, registering a career-best 27 goals and 61 points in 82 regular-season contests. He was the third player taken in the 2016 NHL draft.
Jets captain Blake Wheeler echoed Ehlers' sentiments regarding the deal.
"I won't lie, it's kind of sad," he said. "Just rewind four years ago and the excitement when we drafted Patty and the steps our organization has taken the last four years and he was a big part of that.
"It's disappointing to be having this conversation but it's the nature of pro sports and for our organization we move forward."
But Wheeler also likes the potential Dubois brings to Winnipeg.
"Certainly over the last couple of years he's developed into a very dynamic powerful player down the middle," he said. "That's kind of how you build teams to have success.
"Definitely excited about what he brings to our team . . . an incredibly dynamic player that we just added to our team."
Dubois' father, Eric, is an assistant coach with the Manitoba Moose, the Jets AHL affiliate.
Laine, 22, scored twice and had three points in Winnipeg's season-opening 4-3 overtime win over Calgary. But he's missed the last three games with an upper-body injury and was placed on injured reserve Friday.
Laine is considered day-to-day.
"Strengthening our lineup offensively has been a priority for us and the additions of Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic accomplish just that," Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen said in a statement. "Patrik is a player we know very well and in a short time has become one of our league's most proficient goal scorers.
"Jack is an exciting young player with great potential and we're thrilled to bring him home to Columbus as a Blue Jacket."
Dubois has registered 66 goals and 159 points in 239 games after breaking into the league for the 2017-18 season.
Days before this season's training camp opened, Dubois signed a two-year contract worth US$10 million but also ruffled feathers by making it clear he wanted to be traded.
Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella, unhappy with Dubois' effort in the first four games this season, took him off the ice after five shifts in the first period Thursday night. He kept him on the bench for the rest of the 3-2 overtime loss against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Dubois downplayed the situation and again declined to comment on his reasons for wanting to leave Columbus.
Laine, the No. 2 pick in 2016, has 140 goals and 250 points in 306 career games with the Jets after breaking into the league in 2016-17.
Roslovic, selected 25th overall in 2015 by Winnipeg, has played 180 games with 26 goals and 67 points for the Jets.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 23, 2021.