In the past couple of weeks, reports have surfaced that Pierre-Luc Dubois wants to play for the Montreal Canadiens. According to Murat Ates and Arpon Basu of The Athletic, Dubois attended the 2022 NHL Draft in Montreal expecting to be traded to the Canadiens on the draft floor (from “What we’re hearing on the Canadiens, Jets and Pierre-Luc Dubois,” The Athletic, 7/15/22).
The Winnipeg Jets still hold his rights as a restricted free agent (RFA), but he seems to be forcing his way out, and the Canadiens are at the top of his destination list. The salary cap implications and his pending contract negotiations are the two main holdups on this deal. The Jets have $14 million in cap space, and the Canadiens have only $1.2 million. For a trade to work, the money would have to be even, and contracts would have to be unloaded before training camp starts.
Dubois One of the Jets’ Most Valuable Assets
Trade rumours have swirled around the Jets this season, but of all the players mentioned, including Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, and Brenden Dillon – all veterans who could be moved later in the offseason – Dubois has the most value. He’s coming off one of his best NHL seasons, with 60 points and a career-high 28 goals in 81 games.
Dubois is 24 years old and just about to enter his prime. If there was ever a time to jump on him and get the most out of his career, it would be now, and the Jets know it because the team that acquires him can still retain his rights for another two seasons.
One of the biggest question marks surrounding the Jets was their effort late in the season. Dubois became a fan favourite because he always gave a full effort, even when the team was well out of a playoff spot. Some fans even prematurely anointed him as the next captain after Wheeler. But now, even if management decides to keep him, fans will not forget that he tried to force his way to Montreal.
What the Canadiens Could Offer in Return
The biggest hurdle remains the Canadiens’ lack of cap space. There are a handful of players whose salaries are high enough to make the money even. Josh Anderson is mentioned most often in a potential trade out of Montreal after being ranked #25 on Frank Seravalli’s trade targets list on DailyFaceoff.com. Anderson is a big power forward who scores goals and plays an extremely physical game. His on-ice play aside, his $5.5 million average annual value (AAV) would go a long way in making the money even.
Christian Dvorak is another player whose contract could be an asset in this deal. The 26-year-old centre had 33 points in 56 games last season, and he’s carrying a $4.45 million AAV over the next three seasons. His underlying numbers are promising, but he struggled to find his footing with the Canadiens last season.
Both players would not be enough to acquire Dubois, although they make sense given their contracts and struggles last season. Young players like Kirby Dach and 2022 first-overall pick Juraj Slafkovsky will likely overtake them next season.
Another player to watch for is Nick Suzuki. Could the Canadiens value Dubois over Suzuki? If so, the money would make sense in a swap, and the Jets wouldn’t have to worry about replacing their second-line centre. This trade is less likely, but it is well within the range of outcomes.
Ugly Pattern of Young Players Leaving Winnipeg
Patrik Laine, Jacob Trouba, and, most recently, Andrew Copp all asked to be traded from the Jets or made it clear they did not want to re-sign with the team. Dubois now joins this list, and management needs to figure out how to stop this troubling trend. Those four impact players all wanted out within four years. Many fans like to speculate about the locker room dynamic and what goes on behind closed doors, and as more players ask to leave, it adds fuel to that fire.
The Jets like to remain patient after a player requests a trade; they waited until the last second to get the most value in all three trades mentioned above. If Dubois is on the move, management will exhaust every option before making their decision. If he wants to go to Montreal, and they want him, that doesn’t mean it will happen. If the organization decides to move a 24-year-old player who is coming off of a career year, they are going to take the best offer presented to them before training camp.
Connor Hrabchak is 19 years old and is currently working towards completing his communications and media degree. He was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He’s been watching hockey ever since they moved back to Winnipeg in 2011, and that has inspired him to write about hockey and attempt to make it into a full-time career.