Kings Acquire and Extend Pierre-Luc Dubois

A trade saga that seemed to be last for over a year has come to its conclusion, as Pierre-Luc Dubois will be headed to the Los Angeles Kings in a blockbuster trade.

While there were rumors about Dubois possibly looking to play for his hometown Montreal Canadiens, that is no longer the case. He is now headed to Hollywood, and also signed an eight-year, $68 million extension carrying an $8.5 million cap hit, as confirmed by TSN’s Chris Johnston.

The Winnipeg Jets got a significant haul in return, acquiring forwards Alex Iafallo, Gabriel Vilardi, Rasmus Kupari, and Montreal’s 2024 second round pick, previously acquired from trading Sean Durzi to the Arizona Coyotes.

Dubois was a pending restricted free agent, and he was not expected to stay with the Jets after he requested a trade earlier this June. The two options that the Jets were left with are to either find a trade partner for him or to head to salary arbitration on another one-year deal, similar to the contract that the two sides agreed to when he was an RFA last summer.

Dubois Gets Fresh Start in Hollywood

Dubois arrived in Winnipeg in the middle of the 2020-21 season when he, along with a 2022 third round pick, got traded from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for forward Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic. Both Laine and Dubois were chosen second and third overall, respectively, in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, though both were rather disappointing for their teams at that time. Upon landing in Winnipeg, Dubois had 20 points in 41 games down the stretch in a middle-six role.

But things changed in the last two seasons, as he recorded back-to-back 60-point seasons for the time in his career, including a 27-goal, 63-point campaign this past season, and is entering his prime and closer to who people thought he would become. While he’s not a defensive forward, he is a gritty offensive player who can help drive the play and can boost teams on the man advantage.

With the trade, Dubois gets a new beginning. He has wanted to play for a team in a larger market, as he was not wanting to stay in Winnipeg beyond this season. He joins a Kings team that was by the doorstep of getting past the Edmonton Oilers in back-to-back first round matchups, and he should give them an offensive boost, especially since the Kings averaged 2.85 goals through 13 games against Edmonton in those two series.

Kings Get Possible Future Top Line Center

Also consider the fact that Kings center and captain Anze Kopitar is on the final year of his 8-year, $80 million contract extension he signed on January 16th, 2016. He is 35, and will turn 36 on August 24th. While had 28 goals and 74 points this past season, when his next contract starts on October 2024, he will be 37.

While it seems likely that general manager Rob Blake will look to sign his captain to an extension, it looks certain that it will be a short-term deal. Don’t expect a $10 million cap hit again, though it’s fair to wonder how many more productive seasons he has left in him before ceding the top line center role to Dubois.

Dubois will likely slot in on a line with Kevin Fiala and Viktor Arvidsson as his wingers, as projected by CapFriendly. It should make for a nice offensive trio, with Fiala amassing 23 goals and 49 assists for 72 points this past season, and Arvidsson racking up 26 goals and 33 assists for 59 points.

The Kings are loaded with center depth, which includes the likes of Quinton Byfield, Phillip Danault, Blake Lizotte, and Jaret Anderson-Dolan. Though Byfield has played on Kopitar’s wing this past season, he has shown that he can play center. With Dubois added to the mix, the center position is now the team’s strongest suit.

Kings Lose Young Depth Pieces

You can make the argument that this trade shakes up the Pacific Division, as the Kings are looking to take the next step and get back into Stanley Cup contention status. They’re trying to climb up the ladder and catch up with the Vegas Golden Knights, who have just won their first Stanley Cup in their sixth year of existence, and, with Dubois being 25, there is every reason to believe he will thrive in LA.

However, what the Jets got in return is a lot to give up for a high-end player like Dubois. They were in perhaps the most crucial offseason of their franchise’s history, and the Kings gave up several young pieces to acquire Dubois. Iafallo was a reliable middle-six forward and Vilardi was tied for fourth on the team in goals scored (23), with Fiala.

Yes, the Kings got a top-end talent, but at the same time, the trade cost them valuable depth pieces. While Dubois did score at least 20 goals in four of the six seasons he played in, he’s not exactly the game-breaking talent that can turn a franchise around.

Plus, even though they freed themselves from Cal Petersen’s $5 million cap hit in the Ivan Provorov trade, they now have just over $4.5 million of cap space after the Dubois trade and the Vladislav Gavrikov extension, which comes at a $5.875 million cap hit. And considering that Pheonix Copley is their only goaltender under contract, and that this year’s goaltending class in free agency is relatively weak, they may find it more complicated on getting a new contract to trade deadline acquisition Joonas Korpisalo.

Jets Jumpstart Their Rebuild/Retool

The Jets are in a tough position this offseason after a second half collapse in the regular season leading to a first round flameout to the Golden Knights in five games. All of Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, and Connor Hellebuyck appear to be on the move, as all of them are on expiring contracts and Hellebuyck told the Jets he is not interested in a rebuild. But general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff was able to bring in a haul for a disgruntled player who was a year away from having the Jets lose his services for nothing.

Iafallo has proven himself as a reliable penalty-killer, and one who can be inserted into a unit that killed off 82.4% of shorthanded situations, tied for seventh in the league with the San Jose Sharks. He is under contract until 2025, so expect him to be deployed on the third line for the team.

Vilardi, the 11th overall pick in the 2017 Entry Draft, finally broke out after multiple injuries derailed his development. His 23 goals this past season were a career-high, with five coming on the power play, and is also a steady defensive forward who can put up between 40 and 50 points per season. He is a restricted free agent, so he is due a pay raise, and keeping him in the mix on the long-term side will be one of Cheveldayoff’s priorities this offseason.

Last but not least, Kupari, even though he didn’t pan out with the Kings in his status as a former first round pick, is still a young forward, though he has developed a physical side of him, and is a reliable faceoff man. He is also an RFA, and the Jets would like to keep him and his services, hoping to develop him into the player he was expected to be.

Canadiens Lose Out on Sweepstakes, Settle for Alex Newhook

With the Canadiens losing out on the Dubois sweepstakes, they decided to acquire the RFA rights to forward Alex Newhook from the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for picks no. 31 and no. 37 of this year’s Entry Draft and defensive prospect Gianni Fairbrother.

But it still stings losing out on acquiring Dubois. It made sense, considering that he was born and raised in Quebec, in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, a town 80 kilometers northwest of Montreal. It didn’t happen, however, even though general manager Kent Hughes was trying to make a deal with the Jets, and landing a hometown player would have been ideal and welcoming.

In the end, Winnipeg wanted to go after guys who were ready to contribute now, which is why they were in talks with the Kings on a trade. While Newhook is another former first round pick, he’s not on Dubois’ level. It’s one thing to trade for a three-time 60-point scorer and another who has yet to surpass 50 points in a single season, let alone 40.

The hope for the Canadiens is that, should Newhook get a new deal with them, head coach Martin St. Louis helps revitalize Newhook’s game and he lives up to his potential as a former first round pick.

Written by Alec Nava

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