By JD Lagrange – I know, some Habs’ fans are tired of the discussions surrounding Pierre-Luc Dubois and the possibility of him joining the Canadiens. But as his own agent mentioned that his client doesn’t want to sign long term in Winnipeg because he would like to play in Montreal, don’t expect the talks and rumours to suddenly go away… particularly not with trade deadline looming or this upcoming off-season.
It seems like fans (and media members) are divided on three groups on the topic:
- Those who categorically don’t want anything to do with Dubois, for one reason or another.
- Those who are all for it, and are willing to trade for him by this summer at the latest.
- Those who wouldn’t mind getting Dubois, but want to wait for him to become an unrestricted free agent (UFA) not to have to give up assets to get him.
Whether someone wants to get him or not is arguable as it’s a matter of opinion. To each their own and we have gone over that in a past article. So we’re not going into it in this one. Instead, I want to address the other options of acquiring him.
For those who don’t know, Dubois is a pending restricted free agent (RFA) this summer and will be UFA eligible in the summer of 2024. Many fans think that it would be cheaper to wait for Dubois to become a UFA instead of trading for him. That is only partially true and here’s why.
At 24 years of age, Dubois is having the best season of his young career with 22 goals and 52 points in 52 games so far this year. It is not a stretch to think that he will do just as well, or even improve on those numbers next season. You will have to pay a player a lot more if he has two consecutive seasons at over a point per game than you will if he only has one. That’s a fact that cannot be denied.
If – or when – he becomes a UFA after two great seasons, all 32 teams will have the option of throwing truck loads of money his way, including states where there is no or little tax. So for the Canadiens to be able to be in the ball park salary-wise, they will have to fork out a lot more money. Don’t forget that the cap will be going up and salaries will also follow suite.
How much money will a 6-foot 2-inches, top-line center be fetching as a UFA, do you think? Is waiting for him to become a UFA really “cheaper”, come to think of it? The Canadiens will still have to pay Suzuki, Caufield and their other players by then.
If the Canadiens were to trade for Dubois, they would have to give up assets to acquire him and, let’s face it, we’re not talking about giving up dead wood here. While some people think that it would cost Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield or Kaiden Guhle, it’s not the case. Of course that’s what the Jets will be asking for. But that’s not what they would end up with. Let’s make that totally clear.
Let’s not forget that Dubois holds the big part of the stick here (pun intended). He will be only one year away from becoming UFA and even if traded elsewhere than Montreal, teams won’t want to pay a huge premium for a player they don’t know they can re-sign long term. So the Jets won’t be able to cash in Dubois’ true value unless he agrees to sign a long term extension, which is unlikely.
Salary dump: Now here’s one of the benefit of trading versus waiting for him to be a UFA. The Canadiens could force the Jets to take on Mike Hoffman in the deal, an asset that they could not trade otherwise and that, in my opinion, they will look at buying out this summer. For the Jets, it would be one year at $4.5 million, for secondary scoring.
50 contracts: Further, teams can only have 50 total contracts. While they won’t re-sign their current pending UFAs in Jonathan Drouin, Evgenii Dadonov and Paul Byron, they would also not re-up Sean Monahan if they trade for Dubois. But Caufield, Ylönen, Harvey-Pinard, Pezzetta, Harris, Richard and Beaudin (amongst others) are pending RFAs and need to be re-signed. They also have some new prospects graduating from their own ranks (Junior, College, Europe) who will need to count against the 50 contracts limit). Trading contracts will become important.
One more season: Last but not least, by trading for him, they would reap the benefit of having Dubois helping out Suzuki for one more season. We saw the drop in Slick Nick’s production after Sean Monahan came out of the line-up, right? Dubois would have a similar effect starting next season.
Yes, the Canadiens will have to give value but not as much as some people think. I could be way off here, but I’m thinking something along the lines of Josh Anderson (who is signed long term), a first round pick this year (Florida) or in 2024, and Mike Hoffman.
Last but not least, the deal that Jonathan Huberdeau signed with the Calgary Flames should serve as a strong support in acquiring Dubois before he hits free agency. We have made that correlation back in August.
Count me in on the side of fans who want to see the Canadiens get Pierre-Luc Dubois. Not because he’s French Canadian (although it’s a nice bonus), but because he’s an excellent NHL player with grit and size, one that every other NHL team would love to have.
But I also strongly believe that the best time to get him will be this upcoming summer. The Jets are unlikely to trade him as they are in the playoffs’ picture this year. And the benefits of trading for him, in my opinion, vastly outweigh waiting for the player to become a UFA. A center line of Dubois, Suzuki and Dach has me drooling. It would be a cheap version of Edmonton’s McDavid, Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins. Both Dach and Dubois can play the wing from time to time too.
In the meantime, don’t expect the Dubois rumours to die until he signs long term somewhere. Here’s hoping that it’s in Montreal… sooner rather than later.