There have been plenty of rumors suggesting that the Los Angeles Kings are in the market for a big-name forward this offseason. I’ve made my opinions on this matter clear in the past, I don’t think this is necessary. However, that doesn’t change the reality that the team might go after that kind of player. If they do, that player should be Winnipeg Jets forward Pierre Luc-Dubois.
Dubois’ Contract Situation & Availability
On Wednesday night, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that Dubois informed the Jets he will be testing free agency in 2024. Dubois is currently a restricted free agent (RFA) with arbitration rights, a similar situation to Adrian Kempe. The general feeling now is that Dubois will file for arbitration, giving his team the option of a one, or two-year award after an arbitration hearing.
Assuming the Jets choose the two-year option, that makes him an unrestricted free agent and eligible to test free agency. Friedman did report that the team wants to keep Dubois in Winnipeg long-term, so how does this help the Kings? Well, the Jets are in a tough position, they missed the playoffs last season, aren’t in a good position cap-wise, and are unlikely to compete for a Cup in the next two seasons. With this in mind, trading Dubois’ RFA rights this summer to help kickstart a rebuild would make sense. The Jets will want to move out Mark Scheifele or Blake Wheeler before Dubois, but those contracts will be more difficult to move.
Why Go After Dubois Before Others?
Then the question becomes, why Dubois over someone like Alex DeBrincat or Kevin Fiala? The main reason is cost, Dubois won’t come cheap, but he will cost less than one of those two players. Teams know he won’t re-sign and that he’ll need to be traded. I would consider it a comparable situation to that of Sam Reinhart last season. Dubois will cost slightly more, being three years younger than two years younger than Reinhart was at the time of signing but should still be cheaper than the others mentioned. It’s not just the cost that makes him a great option though, he’s also a magnificent player who ticks a lot of boxes for the Kings.
The Kings need goalscoring, size, and physicality added to their forward group next season, and Dubois brings all of that. Last season, he posted 28 goals and 32-assists for 60 points. To put that into Kings’ terms, that’s one more goal and nine more points that Phillip Danault, nine more goals than Anze Kopitar, and seven fewer points. His analytics were also impressive, with 11.9 goals-above-replacement and 2.1 wins-above-replacement, according to EvolvingHockey.com. Both totals far surpass Kopitar’s totals, who led the Kings in these two categories.
His 112 hits would also place him third on the team’s leaderboard amongst forwards, adding needed physicality. The only negative stat from Dubois was his league-leading 43 minor penalties. Seeing Kempe and Dubois battle it out for bad penalties taken would be rough to watch at times. On the flip side, he drew more penalties than he took, drawing the third-most penalty minutes in the league. He ended the season with 86 penalty minutes taken and 98 drawn for a differential of -12. Still, given the Kings’ special team’s struggles, he would need to work on his discipline.
Where Dubois Fits on the Team
One of the biggest reasons the team should target Dubois is how well he fits the team. He plays a style of hockey that will fit in with what the Kings are trying to do. He’s a high-volume shooter, he is aggressive and effective on the forecheck, and he scores goals in the dirty areas of the ice. Last season, 21 of his 28 goals came from the hash marks, and around the crease, he plays a hardnosed game and works for his goals.
I’m sure several readers are questioning why I would suggest the Kings target a center when they have Kopitar and Danault locked up for the next two seasons? There are two reasons. Firstly, Dubois wouldn’t come in to play center, not right away. He’s played wing in the past and played there for his entire draft season, he moved to the middle, as the Columbus Blue Jackets thought they could secure a franchise center in him. He can fill the hole on Kopitar’s wing for the next two seasons and add a new element to the top six. The second reason is long-term security through the middle. I’ve mentioned a few times that Alex Turcotte, Gabe Vilardi, and Rasmus Kupari all making the move to wing leaves the long-term second-line center spot in question. At 23 years old, Dubois can anchor that spot, behind Quinton Byfield, for the next decade. You can kill two birds with one stone by acquiring Byfield.
Back to his overall fit on the team, he would be a fantastic addition next to Kopitar and Kempe on the top line. With Dubois, Kempe would become the smallest player on that line, making them a nightmare to play against. He’s also a complete offensive weapon, able to play as a goalscorer, playmaker, and power forward. He’s the offensive weapon Kings fans are hoping Vilardi develops into, with added physicality and aggressiveness. He’d also help solve the Kings’ dreadful powerplay, of his 28 goals last season, 15 came on the powerplay. Playing the net front, he uses his size and skill to deposit rebounds, tip pucks, and finish passing plays in tight. He would be a perfect net-front presence with Arthur Kaliyev unloading one-timers on the top unit. That net-front game would also help 5v5, as Kempe creates a ton of rebounds with his high-volume shooting that Dubois can feed off.
Dubois Solves Several Problems
Dubois checks all of the box’s fans, and the front office has outlined for the team. He brings size, tenacity, and offense to the table. He helps the team’s power play and has the versatility to play both center and wing. The big question would be cost, somewhere around the Reinhart trade last summer, with a little added on. As I said, he’s the offensive weapon Vilardi can become, so I wouldn’t mind moving Vilardi to acquire Dubois. Vilardi, one of the team’s right-shot defensemen not named Brandt Clarke, and a draft pick might get the deal done, and the Kings should pull the trigger if it does.
My name is Austin Stanovich, as a lifelong player and fan I’m hoping to bring my own unique perspective on the hockey world, specifically covering the Los Angeles Kings. As a SoCal native I grew up a Kings fan, and after graduating from Long Beach State in 2020 I’ve joined The Hockey Writers crew as a columnist for the Kings.