The Montreal Canadiens Dodged a Bullet Named Pierre-Luc Dubois

It seems like since the Quebecois Pierre-Luc Dubois has entered the league, he has been linked with the Montreal Canadiens. Especially when he is upset and wanting to be traded, which has been often. Nothing has come from the rumors, and that's probably a good thing.
Los Angeles Kings v Montreal Canadiens
Los Angeles Kings v Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

If there is anything that the modern Montreal Canadiens like, its a good reclamation project. From young players with high upside who had yet to live up to their hype, or older players looking to prove they still have something left in the tank, the Montreal Canadiens will take them all. And there's no bigger reclamation project in the NHL right now than the new Washington Capital Pierre-Luc Dubois.

Reclamations of the Past

Kent Hughes and Jeff Gorton have proven one thing in their so far fairly short term as the heads of the Montreal Canadiens, and that is they are willing to buy low, especially when it comes to a young player.

Their biggest move of the offseason last year was acquiring Alex Newhook from the Colorado Avalanche. Newhook was taken 15th overall in 2019, was having trouble carving a path through the stacked Avalanche forward corps, but showed signs of exceptional speed and offensive skill. Even though he lost a good chunk of time to injury last year, Newhook did record a career best goals and point totals, and is still just 23 years old.

Kirby Dach
Montreal Canadiens v Toronto Maple Leafs / Claus Andersen/GettyImages

And then, of course, there was the acquisition of Kirby Dach from the Chicago Blackhawks. Similarily, Dach was a high draft pick, 3rd overall in 2019, but also had a struggle finding a spot with the Blackhawks. And like Newhook, Dach also set career bests in goals and points in his first year in Montreal. However, he did miss the whole season to injury, but is still young at 23.

But even before Gorton and Hughes, Montreal was rehabilitating players. Stop me if you've heard this one before, but the Montreal Canadiens acquired a young centre from the Chicago Blackhawks that was taken in the first round and hadn't been able to find their way on the roster.

Wait, I lost track, is this Kirby Dach or Phillip Danault? If you've been following the Montreal Canadiens for the past couple of years, you know who Phillip Danault is, and how he, Brendan Gallagher and Tomas Tatar formed one of the best possession and top lines at the time.

And let's not forget the fun Ilya Kovalchuk experiment. Kovalchuk was one of the biggest NHL stars in early to mid 2000s, but was in the midst of a disappointing second stint in the NHL, and was just bought out of his contract with L.A. But the Canadiens signed him at the league minimum, and he scored 6 goals and 13 points in 22 games and earned a draft pick in a trade to Washington.

Can Dubois be Reclamated?

Pierre-Luc Dubois was drafted third overall in 2016 by the Columbus Blue Jackets, and had some good seasons in Columbus. Especially in 2018-19, where he almost hit 30 goals and over 60 points. However, it became clear that Dubois was unhappy in Columbus and was looking for a trade.

There was rampant rumors that Dubois would only move to Montreal, but he landed a little bit to the west, in Winnipeg. And he didn't come cheap, with Winnipeg giving up 2nd overall pick sniper Patrik Laine and regular NHLer Jack Roslovic. Looking at Montreal's roster in 2021, it is really difficult to see Montreal matching that quality.

Pierre-luc Dubois, Jack Eichel
Vegas Golden Knights v Winnipeg Jets - Game Four / Jason Halstead/GettyImages

And despite putting up career numbers in Winnipeg, his drive was in question, and Dubois and his agent kept going against the Jets front office, mainly in saying that he doesn't want to play in Winnipeg long term, and he only wanted to play with the Montreal Canadiens.

However, the season came and went, and the Montreal Canadiens were unwilling or unable to match what the L.A. Kings were offering, by signing Dubois to an 8 year, $8.5 million, with a no-move clause while also giving up Alex Iafallo, Gabriel Vilardi, Rasmus Kupari and a second round pick.

How did that go? Well, Vilardi scored more goals than Dubois last year, and almost matched him in points. And there was the continued questions about his drive and commitment to the Kings.

If Dubois had come the Canadiens, he would have scored less goals than Joel Armia, a guy who started the season in the AHL, and just five points more than Sean Monahan, a guy that was traded partway through the season. All while making more money than any active skater on the team. For 8 more years.

So it came as a surprise that just one year into a brand new, 8 year deal, the L.A. Kings dealt Dubois to the Washington Capitals, and just got overpaid goalie Darcy Kuemper in return. So now Dubois will be left in the limbo that is the Washington Capitals, a shambling corpse that seems to only exist to get Ovechkin to break the goal-scoring record at this point.

So the Kings cut their losses and traded him away for a similarly questionable contract, but if the Stanley Cup Final didn't go as long, they could have possibly bought him out, but because of Dubois' age, the Kings would have to pay a lot more in penalties.

A player still on the younger side signing a massive deal, only to make it just one year on the team is pretty terrible, and being a massive buyout target doesn't help either.

And if he made it to the Canadiens, there might have been some problems coming in the future. Guhle is going to get paid next season, and Slafkovsky, Hutson, Reinbacher and whoever the Canadiens draft at 5th overall this year will also need contracts in the coming years, and $8.5 million a year is a lot to swallow.