Making Sense of Dubois’ Salary Demands

By JD Lagrange – Yes, that topic again. What can we say? A big impact forward, a local talent, wants to play for the Canadiens and we are only days away from finding out where he will be going. That’s rather polarizing, wouldn’t you say? So bear with us for a bit longer, the Pierre-Luc Dubois saga is only a few weeks away from being consumed.

Salary demands

In a recent article on The Athletic, Arpon Basu and Marc-Antoine Godin co-wrote that Dubois’ salary demands, for a non-contender like the Canadiens, would be in the $9 million per season range but that he might accept a bit less from a Stanley Cup contender.

When you stop and think of it logically, emotions aside, this makes sense. And if you’re a Habs’ fan, you should agree to this. Dubois had 63 points in 73 games last season, playing through injuries in the second half of the season. That’s a pace for 71 points over 82 games (0.86 Pts/GP). Nick Suzuki led the Canadiens with 66 points in… 82 games (0.80 Pts/GP).

Suzuki bar

Fans will inevitably compare salaries to Nick Suzuki ($7.875M) and Cole Caufield ($7.85M) but those who will are forgetting an important factor. Both young players, through their 8-year contract, have signed for years mostly covering their RFA status. Dubois is one year away from becoming a UFA so signing a long term deal would cover mostly UFA years. That comes at a premium for a hockey player. Therefore, if both young studs on the Canadiens get close to eight million, it’s not farfetched to think that Dubois would be getting nine.

There are many who think that Kent Hughes doesn’t want to have players making more than Nick Suzuki, and use Caufield’s contract to support their claim. But Hughes clarified this point in his meeting with the press from Buffalo at the combines. He did say that it was important to respect the salary structure from a player coming off an entry-level contract, but things change based on situations. So clearly, that doesn’t necessarily apply to a soon-to-be UFA.

Not so long ago, I did some research and published the results on this very website. We looked at both the cost value in a trade, and salaries of players in a similar situation. While $9 million is a bit higher, it is certainly not out of touch with today’s reality. The salary cap may only go up by $1 million next season, but experts predict that it is anticipated to go up drastically starting next season, when the NHLPA’s $70 million escrow is all paid back.

Pending trade

Since that research however, Dubois has officially informed the Jets that he has no intention of signing a new contract with them. Through his agent Pat Brisson, the Dubois clan is willing to work with the Jets to help facilitate a trade. As a team could sneak in and sign Dubois to an offer-sheet by July 1st, it is expected that Jets’ GM Kevin Cheveldayoff will trade his disgruntled forward prior to that date. If Dubois signed an offer-sheet and the Jets matched it, this would mean that they could not trade him for the year, therefore losing him at the end of the season with no return.

This demand by Dubois has definitely taken the big part of the stick out of the Jets’ hands. It is believed that the Ste-Agathe-des-Monts native has a list of about 4-5 teams to which he would agree to re-sign with, Montreal being on that list. Without knowing the other teams, one could wonder how many would have the necessary cap space to re-sign him. The Canadiens do. Contrary to popular belief, the Jets still have ‘some’ leverage… Since he has no trade protection, Winnipeg can still trade him to the highest offering team.

It is now fully expected that Dubois will be traded by the June 28th Draft (or before). Where? That’s a question that only Cheveldayoff and the Jets can answer. One thing is for sure, they are fielding calls and gauging interest… and Kent Hughes is in discussion.

Caufield of Dreams – Build It And They Will Come

By JD Lagrange – The Canadiens have (finally) announced that they have agreed to terms on a new contract with winger Cole Caufield. The young prolific goals’ scorer will have at least 62.8 million reasons to smile over the next eight years! As predicted by yours truly, Kent Hughes has respected his team’s pay scale as Caufield’s $7.85 million cap hit is just below Nick Suzuki’s $7.875 million.

Selected 15th overall at the 2019 NHL Draft by the Canadiens, the 22 year old diminutive sniper has 53 goals and 84 points in 123 games so far in his young career, with a differential of minus -35. Since Martin St-Louis has taken over as the team’s head coach, Caufield has scored 48 goals in only 83 games. He was shut down last season with a shoulder injury, which he had surgically repaired.

A risk

No need to say, Habs’ fans are ecstatic at the news of this signing… and rightfully so. However, in spite of all of the excitement, this contract does not come without risks.

Let’s face it, the sample size is rather small here, and we’re not talking about his 5-foot 7-inches frame. Giving that much money over such a long term for someone who has only a season and a half worth of games under his belt and who suffered a major injury is a bit… unusual.

There is no doubt that Caufield can play hockey and if there’s one thing that he knows how to do, it’s to find the back of the net. But the questions remain about his sustainability, being able to not only play through an 82-games gruelling NHL schedule, but to stay healthy and keep producing at that pace.

Fans of his will claim that he can. The more pessimistic will say that he will not. The truth is that nobody knows for sure. Kent Hughes and the Canadiens’ management group are gambling that he will. There is a risk and all are well aware of it… whether they admit it or not.

What next?

With Michael Pezzetta recently re-signed for two years, there are three more prominent restricted free agents to re-sign by Hughes. Management must make a decision about offering a qualifying offer or not to Russian winger Denis Gurianov, who was making $2.9 million last season. Rafaël Harvey Pinard has opened the eyes of many people after being called up last season and he needs to be extended. The other one is Jesse Ylönen.

But beyond that, there could be a trade or two and none has more smoke than the one of the Winnipeg Jets’ center Pierre-Luc Dubois and his ties to the Canadiens.

The NHL Draft is set for June 28-29th so we still have a month of speculations ahead of us… at the most. In the meantime, rest assured that Hughes will be on the phone periodically with his counterpart Kevin Cheveldayoff, in Winnipeg, while preparing with his scouting team on whose name to call on the podium at the number five spot overall.

With the pieces left by previous management starting to come up through the system, and the moves and decisions from this current management group, the Canadiens are building something very interesting. Add to that the unusual approach by St-Louis, players are talking around the NHL and more and more will be considering Montreal as a prime destination… as they start winning.