By JD Lagrange – The players are different. Their production today is different. Their position is different. What seems to be the only thing in common, aside from Canadiens’ fans wanting them to sign in Montreal, is their nationality. But there is more that meets the eye and when you did a little bit, Jonathan Huberdeau and Pierre-Luc Dubois have a few things in common.
The Calgary Flames announced that they have signed newly acquired Huberdeau to an eight year, $84 million contract. Huberdeau, who has one year left to his current contract with a cap hit of $5.9 million, will be 30 years old when his new contract takes effect, carrying a cap hit of $10.5 million per season.
This deal is crushing the hopes of more than one Habs’ fan who were hoping to see him sign in Montreal as an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of next season.
Both players were selected third overall at their respective NHL Draft: Huberdeau in 2011 (by Florida) and Dubois in 2016 (by Columbus). Now lets have a look at the two Quebecois’ statistics through their first five seasons in the NHL.
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As you can see, the similarities between the two players throughout the first five years of their career is remarkable and significant. Now add the fact that Dubois is a center and Huberdeau a winger, the size and weight difference and the physicality Dubois brings. The big center has similar potential as his counterpart had at the same stage in their career.
Risk of waiting
Those opposed to Montreal acquiring him via trade often use three arguments to support their stance on the topic. Two of those hold no water and the other one is legitimate.
1- The cost of trading for him is a reality that is totally defendable. Guys like Dubois don’t come cheap, granted, and the Canadiens would have to give up some quality in order to make the deal happen. In my humble opinion, I would make anything available that is not named Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield, Juraj Slafkovsky or Kaiden Guhle. I would be reluctant to give up the first round pick for next season but I doubt it could be done without it. So I would get some sort of lottery protection on it. In my opinion, Dubois is worth it. Not because of his place of birth as much as the fact that he is a top-2 centers on a team, just entering the prime years of his career.
2- The first excuse that needs to be debunked is Dubois’ “attitude”, or the fact that it would be the second time being traded. At first glance, it should be a red flag but when you dig a bit, it’s an argument easily defeated.
- In Columbus, he was playing under John Tortorella, who humiliated him on television. Few players off-camera will have anything good to say about that coach. Heck, I would have asked to be traded too!
- In Winnipeg, the coach quit on the team in mid-season, forfeiting some guaranteed money. How often do you see that? It has long been rumoured that Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele are cancers in a dressing room. Paul Maurice couldn’t change that and left the sinking ship.
3- Last but not least, it’s fans claiming that if he’s really interested in playing in Montreal, Dubois will sign at rebate when he becomes a UFA. That is a fanboy pipe dream, all fine and dandy on a video game, but far from reality in a competitive world.
- For one thing, Dubois could be traded elsewhere and like the way he’s treated and pull a Huberdeau, signing long term with his new team. That’s a real possibility. Who thinks Huberdeau would have signed in Calgary next summer as a UFA? Very few, if any.
- Waiting for him to become a UFA would then undoubtedly allow other teams to make a pitch for Dubois, creating a bidding war, therefore raising his value.
- Waiting is a huge risk as if his progression curve follows Huberdeau’s, he will break out in the next season or two, also raising the cost of signing him.
And I won’t even get into the non-sense of “tanking” for another season. None of Geoff Molson, Jeff Gorton, Kent Hughes, Martin St-Louis or any of the players will purposely tank. That’s just another fanboy pipe dream. These guys don’t get to where they are by throwing games and trying to lose.
Beat the iron while it’s hot!
There is no denying that Dubois said that he wouldn’t be signing a long term deal with the Jets. His agent is on record saying that his client ultimately wants to play in Montreal. I mean, how rare is that? The iron is hot now. Waiting for it to cool down will make it harder to accomplish the goal of getting him.
There are many major reasons why the Canadiens should look at Huberdeau as an example why waiting for Dubois is a bad idea.
- He just turned 24 at the end of June, which means that he’s only 14 months older than Suzuki, fitting the core of the team to a tee.
- He is signed for one year at a cap hit of $6 million. He then has one more year of RFA before becoming a UFA. This one year would lower the cap hit on a contract extension as opposed to waiting for him to become a UFA. He could probably be extended at around $7.5-$8M. If he breaks out, or as a UFA, he could be around Huberdeau’s value.
- Last but not least, he wants to wear the uniform, knowing full well the pressure. Speaking of pressure, he has 22 points in 33 playoffs’ games through the first five years of his career. At the last World Championship, he was arguably Team Canada’s best player, accumulating 13 points in 10 games.
- He is a big center, able to match up against bigger centers like Auston Matthews and Aleksander Barkov.
- He would immediately take some heat away from Suzuki in match-ups, giving Martin St-Louis two good options and making the opposition having to choose which line to put their checking specialists against.
- Thanks to Marc Bergevin’s reset since 2018 and a poor season last year, allowing Kent Hughes to unload veterans for picks and prospects, the prospect pool has never been this deep. This makes it easier to sacrifice a few picks and prospects to get a player like Dubois.
Some people will disagree with this and that’s okay. At least, it is very likely that their claims have been debunked or rebuffed here. I, for one, am hoping that Hughes is able to get a deal done for Dubois this summer and not later. The risk is much, much lower than the potential reward.