Dach’s Success Changes Dynamics

By JD Lagrange – It’s funny how rapidly things can change in hockey. Back in the off-season, Montreal Canadiens’ General Manager Kent Hughes gambled on not one, but two centers. First, at the NHL Draft, Hughes surprised everyone by trading away Alexander Romanov to the New York Islanders and, when the dust settled, acquiring Kirby Dach from the Chicago Blackhawks. Then on August 18th, he acquired Sean Monahan from the Calgary Flames in exchange for future considerations.

Since the start of the season, there has been a surplus of centers on the Canadiens, which created a debate on social media as to which one of Monahan or Dach should play center or wing. With the team already having Nick Suzuki, Christian Dvorak and Jake Evans down the middle, and with all of them healthy, the surplus wasn’t ideal. For a while in October, there has been a rotation between Monahan and Dach on the wing until recently, when Martin St-Louis decided to try Dach on the top line, to the right of Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki. That move immediately paid dividends.

Now what?

With the way Monahan has been performing and seeing that his hips appear to be holding up to the grind of the NHL, there was a growing number of fans who felt like re-signing him was a possibility. That list includes yours truly and my colleague Bob Trask, amongst others.

And truthfully, seeing that Dach is doing so well on the top line’s right wing, the possibility of re-signing the former Flames remains strong. Seeing how dominant Monahan (55.4%) and Dvorak (55.6%) are in the faceoffs’ dots and how effective he is in all three zones, one would be hard pressed to want him on the wing now.

Pierre-Luc Dubois

So what are the Canadiens to do now? Well, here’s the thing. I am not in the secrets of the Gods but there was a lot of smoke around the possibility of Kent Hughes trading for Pierre-Luc Dubois this off-season. Seeing that a trade was not going to happen soon enough, the Jets center/winger eventually accepted the team’s qualifying offer of one year, $6 million.

So what are the plans if you are Dubois, the Jets or the Canadiens, knowing that he wants to play in Montreal? Can the two teams agree to a trade value? If you consider that he has 10 points in 11 games so far and he is being utilized predominantly at center again this season, the asking price from the Jets is unlikely to go down. And what will be the cost of signing him long term?

I have a strong feeling that the future of Monahan in Montreal, aside obviously of his desire to stay with the Canadiens or not and agreeing to a new contract, resides directly the hopes and desire the team has in acquiring Dubois. By next season, Monahan will be 29 years old while Dubois will be 25.

Or perhaps, the Canadiens still intend in developing Dach as a centerman in spite of his success on the top line? Perhaps finding a scoring winger would be easier and cheaper than trying to pry Dubois from Winnipeg at a ransom price.

The possibilities are numerous, with a lot of moving pieces, as we can see. Good on you if you think knowing what goes through Hughes and Jeff Gorton’s mind, as I certainly cannot begin to pretend knowing anything about their true intentions. And truthfully, I doubt that they know at this point in time.

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Dubois: The Waiting Game

By JAG – Like a few of my colleagues, I would really like to see Pierre-Luc Dubois in the Ste-Flanelle. I have written about it before and I’m still hoping. Lately though, I have come to realize that it may just be a waiting game. A two year long waiting game to be sure, and a game best suited for Habs fans with a talent for patience. I’m ready for it, I have plenty of it in store! I waited seven years for Shea Weber to come to Montreal …. And it was completely worth it!

I see the wait as a series of different time windows unfolding in the next two years. For this piece to make sense though, I will assume that the following three hypotheses are valid:

  1. The Habs are seriously interested in acquiring PL Dubois
  2. PL Dubois is seriously interested in becoming a Habs
  3. Winnipeg will be smart enough, maybe, to trade PL Dubois to the Habs before losing him to free agency

About the hypotheses, we’ve all seen reports and rumours in the media that have substantiated and strongly supported the first two. That’s a solid start! The third is seemingly shakier but I think that some situations in Winnipeg may make management act in that direction. And maybe sooner than later! Let me explain.

Caveat: I admit that I am an outsider and I may not have followed Winnipeg as much as I did the Habs but I did pay more attention to them, and PL Dubois of course!

Yet, from what I have seen in the news, there seems to be something weird going on in the Peg. Case in point:

Pierre-Luc Dubois
  • The team has been losing RFAs wanting to be traded and free agents walking out for as long as I can remember, why is that?
  • Dustin Byfuglien left the team and went fishing, what’s that all about?
  • Paul Maurice quit his lucrative coaching position mid season with very little explanation, bizarre?
  • Barry Trotz refused a coaching job with a potential Cup contender, in his home town to boot! Do you see a pattern developing?
  • You could build a contender just with the players that have left, Andrew Copp, Laine, Roslovic, Byfuglien, Trouba, and just now, Paul Stastny has signed in Carolina! What gives?

As you can see, if you look at it either as sheer bad luck or some undisclosed internal situation, this team’s boat gets arocking quite often! And despite being a team in contention for a while now, they haven’t delivered. All of this may mean that changes are coming!

So, let’s start with the first window.

  1. The off season, this year: There are only a few weeks left but they matter. The scenario is as follow. Either Winnipeg stands pat, which is not likely considering Stastny has just left the coop, and yet, they do nothing. Bummer! …. Or they come to terms with the fact that they will lose PLD no matter what, and they decide to clear the air now and make a move. In this case, Kent Hughes has already in hand the necessary assets to offer Winnipeg an equitable hockey trade. The trades for Monahan and Dach have given him more leverage. Result: Bingo! Dubois in Montreal!
  2. Second window: From the 20 games marker in the 22-23 season through late January 23. By then, management and coaches alike have analyzed their team and identified holes and weaknesses. Also, injuries have popped up and a trade may be needed …. Or not.  So, if Winnipeg is doing well, Bummer! If Winnipeg is faltering, bingo! Dubois in Montreal!
  3. Third window: The trade deadline. The same situation as window 2 applies. If Winnipeg is doing well, Bummer! If Winnipeg is faltering, bingo! Dubois in Montreal! The difference will be in the ask. In window 1 and early in window 2, Winnipeg is more likely to ask for established players in the return package to amp their line-up immediately. If they’re faltering at the trade deadline, they’ll probably start to think about the future and are more likely to ask for prospects and picks. Kent Hughes should have plenty of these by then. The Habs still have too many wingers and trades are coming, either now or at the deadline, but they are coming …. And they will bring additional picks and prospects to Montreal.
  4. Fourth window: From the end of the playoffs to the draft. If by then the trade hasn’t happened yet, it likely means that Winnipeg had a decent season. Bummer! They may however have depleted their picks and prospects for a good Stanley Cup run and find themselves with the cupboards even barer than they are now. In the mean time, Montreal has piled up picks and prospects and is definitely a prime dancing partner. Result: Bingo! Dubois in Montreal!
  5. Fifth window: RFAs signings period. If Winnipeg had a decent season, it may mean that Dubois also had a decent year and Winnipeg’s ask would be higher. The flip side is that if Dubois had a decent year, he will get more money with or without arbitration, money Winnipeg would be ill advised to spend if Dubois only signs for one year before getting his UFA status. By then, Montreal should be under the Cap with without Price in LTIR and they should be able to trade for him. Result: Bingo! Dubois in Montreal!
  6. Fifth window, alternate scenario: Someone other than the Habs sign Dubois to an offer sheet that Winnipeg doesn’t want to match. Montreal trades for him and matches the offer. Montreal can offer a better package than 4 late first rounders. I do think that this scenario would be too costly but the result would be …. Bingo! Dubois in Montreal! If not, be patient, keep hoping and repeat windows 1 to 5 in 23-24.
  7. Last window: Dubois becomes UFA on July 1st, 2024. The Habs sign him as a UFA, no other compensation required, the universe’s balance has been restored! Bingo! Dubois in Montreal!

As you see, in the end, it’s just a waiting game. If you wait for him, he will come! As for me, this is my last piece on this topic, I have resolved to be patient …. As I know I can be!

Keep your stick on the ice, the puck is coming!

Thanks for reading me,

JAG

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