By JD Lagrange – If the Twitter trends and other social media discussions are any indication, the rumours around Pierre-Luc Dubois are polarizing both the Montreal Canadiens’ fan base as well as fans of the Winnipeg Jets. A pending RFA in need of a contract for next season, Dubois has declined long term offers from the Jets and has informed them that he would be leaving as soon as he hits full autonomy and a UFA.
To make matters worse, Dubois is not hiding the fact that he wants to play for his home-province Canadiens, which further infuriates Jets’ fans. And because of it, some of them are not going easy on him with a full tarnishing campaign for which some Habs’ fans are falling for. Thankfully, we have recently set the clocks straight by debunking the myth surrounding Dubois and his so-called “attitude”.
It is unfortunate to see a fan base so sour about a player wanting to leave as it happens regularly. Most times, it’s kept quiet though and that’s where I feel like Dubois and his agent Pat Brisson are failing, in my humble opinion. Although here in Montreal, we have just gone through this when Jeff Petry requested a trade, and his wish was finally granted.
When Jets’ GM Kevin Cheveldayoff acquired Pierre-Luc Dubois from the Columbus Blue Jackets, he paid a big price by sending not only former second overall pick Patrik Laine, but also including center Jack Roslovic. In the eyes of many in the hockey world, this was an unnecessary overpayment by Winnipeg. Still, in Cheveldayoff’s mind, that’s what he paid to acquire Dubois so if he was to trade him, he would have to try to save face a bit. It’s one thing when a new GM comes in and makes changes, it’s another when it’s your own doing.
The Jets are likely asking for one of Nick Suzuki or Cole Caufield as part of a package to trade Dubois. If I were him, that’s what I’d be asking for so one would be hard-pressed to blame him for asking that. And it would be rather easy to make a point that it represents a pretty fair value.
But here’s the reality affecting Dubois’ value. For one, he is not signed and it is unknown what his contract demands are or would be, both on a short term deal or for a long term contract. Cost certainty in a hard salary cap world can work in favour of a GM trying to trade for a player as they know what to expect. It’s not the case here.
The second hurdle is Dubois reportedly stating his desire to play in Montreal. For teams other than Montreal, it raises the question if they will be able to convince him to play for them or not. Which means that it is possible that they could trade for him and he would only want to sign for two years, putting that new team in the same boat the Jets are finding themselves in.
Now if you’re the Canadiens, you are somewhat in the driver seat. You have a prominent big center wanting to play for you and the other GM’s hands are somewhat tied. I use the term “somewhat” because Hughes has to be careful. By not offering enough or by insulting Cheveldayoff, he could kill the deal all together.
So the Canadiens have to walk the fine line between offering more than other teams would, but less than what the Jets want. The issue, of course, is that they don’t know what other teams are offering. We know that there is no way that Hughes will give them Suzuki or Caufield. But what would entice the Jets enough to convince them?
First of all, it’s not rush them. Time is not in the Jets’ favour as Dubois hasn’t signed a contract yet. And waiting is the sound thing to do as the Canadiens don’t even have the cap space to re-sign Dubois. The Jets do need to find a center, preferably. Habs’ fans advance the names of Kirby Dach and Christian Dvorak. But not both as it would create another hole at center for Montreal.
Then you would have to add a cap dump that could also satisfy a need for the Jets. A Mike Hoffman, Jonathan Drouin, Evgenii Dadonov or Josh Anderson would go a long way in replacing some of the offense lost in Dubois and their cap hit is not outrageous.
I don’t think the Habs need to sacrifice a first round pick, and certainly not their own in 2023. If push comes to shove, maybe the Panthers’ pick. But I feel like one of the team’s young defensemen would help the Jets feel better about a possible trade. As the organizational depth is on the left side of the defense, I would remove the names of Logan Mailloux and Justin Barron. I would also put Kaiden Guhle on the untouchable list as well. Anyone else would be fair game.
Better now than in two years
They are many who feel like the Canadiens should wait two years to “get Dubois for free”. Well that’s false information and here’s why…
- If Dubois is trade elsewhere, say New York, and he realizes that he likes the way he’s treated, his teammates, and they have a good team, he may not be available in two years;
- If he has a breakthrough season during those two years, which is very much a possibility at his age coming out of a 28 goals’ season, he then become unaffordable and a missed opportunity, and;
- Historically speaking, by signing him now, you get a better cap hit on a long term as two of the years are RFA years as opposed to signing him as a UFA with all UFA years.
There are obviously a lot of moving parts and possibilities, as you can see. But patience is needed because as time goes on, the pressure will be more and more on the Jets to do something. But it is crucial to avoid lowballing or worse, think that the Canadiens could get him in two years. When you see an impact center come available, and he wants to play in Montreal, you have to act and you do it now! Habs’ fans should know better than anyone how hard it is to get those guys with the Habs. Even more so when they’re local.