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Canadiens Should Consider All Options Before Acquiring Dubois

The Hockey Writers logo The Hockey Writers 2023-03-29 Trege Wilson, The Hockey Writers
© James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

It’s no secret that Pierre-Luc Dubois wants to be a Montreal Canadien. When will he become a Hab, and what will it cost Montreal? General manager (GM) Kent Hughes has to decide if it’s worth making a trade for him and giving up potential future value for a sure thing now, or wait and take the chance he will sign with them as a free agent after the following season. The considerable debate on social media is about the best action to acquire the young center. Here is a look at the different options and what could be the best one.

Dubois Being a Canadien is a Matter of When, Not If

Elliotte Friedman mentioned on his podcast 32 Thoughts that there is a 95 percent chance that Dubois will become a Canadien. This rumour has been around since the offseason and hasn’t even remotely disappeared. As the saying goes, where there is smoke, there is fire, and the fires are raging right now. Dubois will be a restricted free agent (RFA) after this season, giving the Winnipeg Jets a little control over what happens. Last season was the same, and he signed for one season for a $6 million average annual value (AAV). There is no reason to think he will not want another one-year deal to take him to unrestricted free agency (UFA) in 2024.

Earlier this season, Dubois’s agent, Pat Brisson, mentioned that the Canadiens are one of the teams that Dubois would like to play for, and Montreal is a city he would like to play in. The key word is one of the teams; this is what Montreal has to consider before waiting for him to become a UFA. If Friedman is correct, then the Habs are likely the team he will end up with, and it looks like talks have been ongoing in Hughes acquiring Dubois from the Jets. Dubois will be a massive asset for the Canadiens and help jumpstart their rebuild, giving the team a possible three-headed monster down the middle at center with Nick Suzuki and Kirby Dach.

Canadiens Could Sign Dubois as a Free Agent

The Canadiens don’t need to rush to get Dubois; after all, he is a UFA at the end of the 2023-24 season, allowing Hughes to sign him and give up nothing but money. When this season is finished, the Jets will need to deal with Dubois as an RFA, and they have some control because he can’t sign anywhere else. The issue is they will only be able to sign him for one year, assuming he wants out, and that could handcuff them going into the 2024 offseason. If he signs for only one season, the Jets will have to make a huge decision at the trade deadline in 2024; if they are fighting for a playoff spot, they need to decide whether it is worth keeping him and losing him for nothing or trading him and getting some value at the deadline.

The Canadiens will also have to consider the situation if they want to trade for Dubois because they would have to give a similar value that the Jets would get at the deadline during the season. If Montreal decides they don’t want to give up anything and Dubois intends to be a Hab, they can wait until July 1, 2024, and try to sign him as a free agent. The issue with waiting is if he has another point per game (PPG) season or better, his money demands will increase from what many fans believe will already be high. The threat of another team offering more money to acquire him could push Hughes to the limit where he can no longer afford him. They won’t lose anyone taking this route, but they don’t gain the elite player that Dubois is.

Canadiens Could Trade for Dubois

If the Canadiens have had ongoing talks with the Jets, then a trade is the most likely outcome. Hughes and Kevin Cheveldayoff have been known to be stubborn GMs who don’t move until they get what they want. Hughes was quiet at this season’s trade deadline because he didn’t like the return for some players that most thought would be traded. Cheveldayoff rarely makes deadline moves and doesn’t usually make one unless he thinks it improves his team, which makes sense but sometimes doesn’t always happen. So what happens when you have two stubborn GMs trying to make a trade? Well, you have a lot of conversations and a slow process. This is probably a huge reason why this rumour has festered for so long and been the most extended worst-kept secret in the NHL.

A trade brings up all kinds of speculation about what the return would be for a player like Dubois. During the season, names like Josh Anderson and Logan Mailloux were tossed around in different trade scenarios. Even before the season started, rumours of Dubois to Montreal ramped up with players being mentioned in a swap. Now that it is beginning to become a real possibility, we need to take a closer look at what a reasonable return would be. There will be players that will not even be mentioned in talks. Suzuki, Cole Caufield, Dach, Kaiden Guhle and Juraj Slafkovsky would be on that list. The Jets have needs on defence and will need to replace Dubois at center.

The Canadiens don’t have a center of Dubois’ calibre, but they do have young defencemen that could help the Jets. With Dubois coming to Montreal, that makes Christian Dvorak expendable, and he could find his way to Winnipeg; he won’t replace Dubois but will serve as an excellent two-way center for the Jets. The Canadiens have an overabundance of left-handed defencemen that could be offered to the Jets. With Guhle off the table, Jordan Harris, Jayden Struble and Arbor Xhexaj are available and could be moved. The Canadiens will not want to part with Lane Hutson, Justin Barron, and Mallioux – Hutson because they want to see what he will bring to the team, and the latter two because they don’t have depth on the right side.

The options are easy to figure out: the Habs would have to offer up Dvorak, one of their left-handed defencemen – probably Harris – and a first-round pick, which could be the Florida Panthers’ pick in 2023 or the Canadiens’ choice in 2024. Either way, the Canadiens will have to give up a lot, but at a closer look, it’s nothing that would hurt them in the future, especially if Dubois becomes the Francophone superstar they have been longing for.

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