Pierre-Luc Dubois has had one of the more turbulent 2020s in the National Hockey League (NHL). The former prized top draft pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets made the critical mistake of taking a shift off in front of John Tortorella.
Within the day, Dubois was traded to Winnipeg in exchange for another disgruntled top-three draft pick in 2016: Patrik Laine. Dubois then became the second-line center behind Mark Scheifele. While not a point-per-game contributor for Winnipeg, Dubois still put up quality offensive numbers for the whiteout.
Now, the writing is all but on the wall that he will not don the navy blue of Winnipeg come October. Dubois is one of several high-profile Jets players included in trade rumors as of late with a total rebuild on the horizon. It will only be a matter of “when and where” he is traded, not “if.”
Two teams are in on the pending restricted free agent: the Montreal Canadiens and the Los Angeles Kings. Dubois and Montreal have been linked for a while now in the Canadiens’ quest to fast-track their rebuild. LA, however, has emerged as the likely landing spot in their quest for their first playoff series win since 2014. The two combatants in the 1993 Stanley Cup Final lock up in a battle of another kind. Who will Pierre-Luc Dubois lace up his skates for next season?
Los Angeles’ case
The Kings are one of the stronger teams in the Western Conference, but general manager Rob Blake feels something is still missing. Last year, they made a splash by acquiring Kevin Fiala from a Minnesota team desperate for cap space.
LA still has the resources available to trade for and extend Dubois. Their nearly half-decade-long rebuild saw many of their prospects blossom into genuine NHL-level players. They could either incorporate those prospects into the team’s future or use them as sweeteners for a potential trade for another superstar.
Names that come to mind are Gabriel Vilardi and Alex Iafallo, who are already rumored to be in the trade package. Other prospects the Jets may have an eye on include (but are not limited to): center Francesco Pinelli and defenseman Kirill Kirsanov.
Pierre-Luc Dubois, in their eyes, will be their next Jeff Carter. The final piece they need: a second-line center with serious upside as an offensive threat. Carter was in his seventh season at the time of his trade, Dubois is entering his. The parallels are definitely there.
What’s the problem?
Dubois may not be the Jet the Kings are looking for. While the aforementioned Kevin Fiala was strong in his first season in the City of Angels, he did not fix the Kings’ real problem: goaltending.
None of Jonathan Quick, Cal Petersen, Pheonix Copley, or Joonas Korpisalo inspired confidence in goal last season. Quick was traded to Columbus in the Vladislav Gavrikov trade that gave the Kings Korpisalo in the first place. Copley had a hot streak but did not get the nod for the playoffs. Petersen was recently traded to Philadelphia in the Ivan Provorov three-way deal (read about it below!)
Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck is one of the few goalies in the NHL that consistently plays at an elite level. The Kings have struggled to find consistency between the pipes lately. The last time a Kings starting goalie has posted back-to-back save percentages (sv%) at or above .910 was Jonathan Quick in 2014-15 and 2015-16 (while he did post a .917 sv% in 2016-17, he only played 17 games due to injury).
Hellebuyck, a nominee for this year’s Vezina Trophy (best NHL goaltender) and the 2020 Vezina Trophy winner, has posted a sv% below .910 once in his eight-year career. He turned 30 last month, so he still has several quality seasons in him. Los Angeles has the cap space to get him so long as they do not trade for Dubois. While Dubois adds more offensive firepower, Hellebuyck would be the guy LA can rely on in net.
What would a potential deal look like?
Los Angeles receives: C Pierre-Luc Dubois (signs contract extension), LW Jansen Harkins
Winnipeg receives: C/RW Gabriel Vilardi, LW/C Alex Iafallo, LD Kirill Kirsanov, 2024 1st round pick, 2025 3rd round pick
As previously referenced, Pierre-Luc Dubois is on record saying he wants to play for Montreal. He would play far closer to home than he would be in Los Angeles. It makes so much sense from a marketing standpoint to bring in the hometown guy. Dubois’ jersey sales would be through the roof in an already-thriving hockey market.
Dubois would also have the same role in Montreal that he had in Winnipeg, but he would potentially be the center for developing forwards such as Juraj Slafkovsky, Jan Mysak, Filip Mesar, and Jesse Ylonen. He still has a ways to go in his career, so urgency to win the Stanley Cup likely is not the issue.
Finally, he would be more prominently featured in Montreal than in Los Angeles. He would most certainly be in the top six for the Kings, but he would not be one of the main attractions (think Anze Kopitar, Adrian Kempe, Kevin Fiala, perhaps Quinton Byfield). Given who Montreal would likely get rid of (stay tuned) to get Dubois, he would feature more prominently with the Habs.
What’s the problem?
Montreal does not have assets as valuable as Los Angeles does. The Canadiens will also be stricter with what draft picks they want to give up. They will not give up their own first-round pick for a while, general manager Kent Hughes knows this team is in for a rebuild. The only reason they would still trade a first-round pick is Florida’s run to the Cup Final pushed that pick to 31st overall.
Most of the players Winnipeg would want for Dubois are either not adequate replacements, younger than 26 years old, or both. Montreal acquired Kirby Dach less than a year ago and would likely try to keep him. Christian Dvorak is declining in offensive production. Several of Montreal’s contracts are near-unmovable.
Montreal is still capable of putting together a trade for Dubois, but they need to really sell themselves to Winnipeg. They have more to gain, but more to lose.
What would a potential deal look like?
Montreal receives: C Pierre-Luc Dubois
Winnipeg receives: C/LW Jan Mysak, C Christian Dvorak, RD Justin Barron, 2023 1st round pick (from Florida), conditional 2024 2nd round pick that can become a 1st
Who wins the Pierre-Luc Dubois sweepstakes?
Los Angeles is most likely the team to beat in these sweepstakes. Their pool of prospects is far deeper and higher-quality than Montreal’s (or anyone’s, for that matter). They have more cap space than Montreal. Everything is coming up Kings in the race for Pierre-Luc Dubois. Stranger things have happened, but it seems Pierre-Luc Dubois is bound for Hollywood.
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