This offseason, Pierre-Luc Dubois could have committed long-term to the Winnipeg Jets. He was a restricted free agent, had just turned 24, and coming off a solid 28-goal season. Instead, he told the team he wasn’t interested in a long-term deal and accepted his $6MM qualifying offer.
That set off plenty of speculation about his future, as Dubois only has one more year of RFA status left after this season. Next summer he could accept another qualifying offer, or go to arbitration for a one-year contract and walk from Winnipeg in the summer of 2024 at the age of 26. His love for the Montreal Canadiens has only been stoked by his agent (and being spotted at the draft), which has suggested to some that he might be waiting to go there in free agency one way or another.
Darren Dreger of TSN caught up with Dubois ahead of Jets training camp this week and asked him about the decision to accept a qualifying offer.
I could see myself in Winnipeg in the future. Just this summer I didn’t have the answer. Everyone wants an answer immediately, that’s kind of the world we’re in. But it’s my life at the end of the day. It is a decision that six, seven, eight years is a long time to bring me toward the end of my career. It’s not just me, it’s also a family that I have. It is a big decision that this past summer I wasn’t ready to make.
Dubois went on to say how things feel different in Winnipeg this season – in a good way, he clarified – and that he’s excited to take another run at the playoffs with this group.
The third-overall pick from 2016 has scored 102 goals and 239 points in his 361-game career but drove much of this speculation with the way he exited his last team. Uncomfortable with the Columbus Blue Jackets, he seemed to stop trying during his final games there, leading to plenty of ire from the fanbase and a seat on the bench from head coach John Tortorella. The forward was eventually traded to the Jets for Patrik Laine, another star who didn’t seem content with his situation.
For the Jets, knowing where Dubois leans is incredibly important. The team will be moving on from former captain Blake Wheeler and top center Mark Scheifele at some point down the road, and could use a big two-way center to build around for the future. Dubois represents that, and along with Kyle Connor and Nikolaj Ehlers, could keep the team’s offense churning.
If he is going to leave, there is an argument to be made that the Jets should move him as soon as possible. After missing the playoffs last season this could be another lean year, and getting back assets to put in the system would be better than watching him leave in free agency. For now, he’s signed for this year and can’t go anywhere until 2024. Hopefully, for Winnipeg’s sake, his comments about leaving the door open for the Jets are true.