Drafted third overall at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft by the Columbus Blue Jackets, Pierre-Luc Dubois has amassed 179 points (74 goals, 105 assists) in 280 games throughout the last four seasons. He has likewise found success in the post-season, as seen with his 22 points (eight goals, 14 assists) in 33 playoff games. Now entering his fifth season in the NHL, and his first full year with the Winnipeg Jets, Dubois and the organization will be looking to come to terms on a new contract that benefits both parties.
While the terms of this agreement will be primarily dependent on how well Dubois performs in this upcoming regular season, there are several factors to consider that will be important in determining what a new contract could look like.
Dubois’ Potential and Blockbuster Trade to the Winnipeg Jets
On Dec. 31, 2020, the Blue Jackets signed Dubois to a two-year contract valued at $10 million. This bridge deal would allow him the opportunity to elevate his game to another level and establish himself as the Blue Jackets’ first-line center while eventually earning a long-term contract that represents as much. However, the possibility of this scenario becoming a reality would quickly dwindle away.
Not long after the extension’s announcement, it was revealed Dubois had requested a trade out of Columbus. Although it took nearly a month, Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekäläinen would honor this request and find a suitor for the forward. The forward would only play five games for the Blue Jackets, scoring one goal in that timespan.
On Jan. 23, 2021, the Blue Jackets traded Dubois and a third-round pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft to the Jets in exchange for forwards Jack Roslovic and Patrik Laine. Another young phenom looking for a fresh start, Laine was selected second overall in the same draft class as Dubois.
As a member of the Jets, Dubois would have an opportunity to get back on track and live up to his work towards showing he can be a first-line center in the NHL. When playing to his potential, the 23-year-old is an impact power forward who can alter the momentum of games by utilizing his physical, on-the-rush style of play which is complemented by his impressive awareness and high-end stickhandling and shooting abilities.
While still in need of refinement in this category, Dubois likewise has all the tools necessary to be effective at both ends of the ice, and not just on offense. His physical play and speed allow him to backcheck and topple the opposition’s top players, if necessary.
Season-Long Struggles in Winnipeg
While Dubois did display flashes of these aforementioned traits throughout parts of the 2020-21 regular season, he never quite settled into the Jets’ lineup to become a fixture in the team’s top-six in terms of production. The reasons behind these struggles should also be considered in future negotiations between the player and organization and when predicting the terms of his next contract.
The shortened 56-game regular season was not easy for many players around the league, and Dubois was no exception. Following the trade to Winnipeg, he had to undergo a government-mandated two-week quarantine before being able to resume training and join his new teammates. Known as creatures of habit, this is not an easy task for any player in the league. This would then be amplified for players having to become acclimated with a new team and their respective system altogether.
In Dubois’ case, that adjustment period never quite ended as he dealt with a minor injury in his first few games and consistency issues that extended well into the playoffs. In 41 games played, he recorded 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) while playing primarily on the left wing in the team’s top-nine. In the playoffs, he only added three assists in seven games played, and struggled mightily in the second round against the Montreal Canadiens.
Following Mark Scheifele’s suspension due to a dangerous hit on Canadiens’ forward Jake Evans, Dubois was moved back to center and allowed to shine in a time of the year where players of his style of play excel. Evidently, he was unable to find his footing with only four shots on goal and zero points in the final three games of the series.
In Defense of Dubois’ Latest Season
Having produced at a pace of 0.48 points-per-game, the 2020-21 regular season was an uncharacteristic one for Dubois. Excluding his 21 points in 46 games played for the Blue Jackets and Jets, he averaged a career of 0.67 points per game with two seasons at 0.70 or higher. Displaying his maturity in an interview with TSN, the forward took ownership of his struggles throughout the previous season, while also elaborating on some of the struggles faced in a season like no other.
“I feel like the normal Pierre-Luc Dubois and not the guy that’s preoccupied about getting back into shape, preoccupied about fitting in. A lot of those things that I never experienced in my life, everything happened at the same time.”– Pierre-Luc Dubois
Determined to get back on track, the Jets would be thrilled to have a Dubois who his performing to his full potential. They would also become inclined to sign the forward to a long-term deal that would allow them to buy as many Unrestricted Free Agency years as possible. The forward will test the open market after the 2023-24 season.
Two Possible Contract Scenarios for Dubois and the Jets
Considering Dubois’s regular season and playoff success with the Blue Jackets, and his subsequent struggles following the blockbuster trade, two possible scenarios may occur when contract negotiations begin.
The first scenario would occur if Dubois’ struggles from the previous year carry into the upcoming regular season and the forward, whose game primarily relies on offense, produces below 0.50 points-per-game once again. If that is the case, the Jets may want more time to consider where he would fit into the organization’s long-term plans. As such, the Jets may only want to sign him to a two to four-year deal worth a similar AAV to his previous deal ranging from $5.3 to $5.6 million.
This would be a high-risk approach as the Jets would be buying a maximum of two UFA years and leaving open the potential of Dubois breaking out and requiring a far more significant pay raise.
The second scenario would see the Jets making a long-term investment. As Dubois’ most recent season is considered to be an outlier, it would not be surprising to see him regain his form and start producing at a minimum of 0.70 points-per-game once again. Poised to start the season centering the second line, and receiving powerplay time, this level of production is not out of the question.
A deal under these circumstances would likely have the Jets wanting to sign Dubois to a five or six-year with an AAV ranging from $6 to $7 million where they would secure a maximum of four UFA years. In agreeing to these terms, the Jets would be securing a high-caliber power forward who can play at both centre and on the wing with room to further grow offensively and defensively.
Emmanuel is a Montreal-based writer covering the Winnipeg Jets for the Hockey Writers. Having spent three years covering the Montreal Canadiens on Twitter through post-game analyses, trade breakdowns, and opinions surrounding league-wide news, Emmanuel was looking to take a more professional approach to covering the game. As such, he spent the last few years writing editorials for various fan-based outlets.